Centennial graduate Corbin Burnes is set to make his first start as a Major League Baseball pitcher Sunday for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The 2019 season is officially here, with teams taking the field Thursday for Opening Day. Burnes will make his first career big league start Sunday as the No. 4 pitcher in the Brewers' starting rotation against the St. Louis Cardinals.
A fourth round draft pick in 2016, Burnes steamrolled through the minor leagues in just two calendar years. He was named 2017 Minor League Player of the Year for the organization after going 8-3 with a 1.67 ERA, striking out 140 batters in 145 2/3 innings over the course of 26 starts. After making 13 starts in Triple A Colorado Springs last year, Burnes was moved to the bullpen before making his MLB debut as a middle reliever for the Brewers on July 10.
As successful as Milwaukee was in advancing to the National League Championship Series, Burnes proved he could handle himself in the big leagues, going 7-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 30 relief appearances.
With the season on the horizon, Burnes spoke with The Californian about his expectations for this season, his living arrangements in Milwaukee and his dream ballpark to pitch in:
Q: Did you ever worry about staying in the bullpen? Did you ever worry that you wouldn’t get back into the rotation?
A: No, not at all. They told me up front at the beginning that it was going to be temporary and for just that last half of last season. They reassured me that once the season was over, it was back to being a starter.
Q: Was there any difference going into this offseason?
A: I approached it the same like every offseason. The same throwing program. The same workouts. It was a lot of the same, but just a little different in spring training because I was a starter the whole time.
Q: When did you know that you made the Opening Day roster?
A: (Milwaukee manager Craig) Counsell told me after my last start of the spring (in Arizona). He called me that morning and said, ‘hey, you've made the team. But we don’t know what day you’ll start.’ He told me to keep my mind at rest and then a couple days later they told me it would be game four.
Q: What was your reaction to that moment?
A: I just took it as a big thank you for the opportunity. That’s what I have prepared for. I have had my eye on making this rotation. Yes, this will be my first Opening Day and my first time as starting pitcher. That’s what I’ve been working towards. Now it’s time to go out and perform.
Q: What are your living arrangements in Milwaukee during the season?
A: This year, me and (girlfriend) Brooke (Terrio) with (Milkwaukee reliever Josh) Hader and his fiance. They’ve grown to become friends over the last half-season. We wanted a house with a yard, so it all worked out that we all got a place big enough that the dogs can have each other and the women have each other while we are on the road.
Q: How are you going to approach your first MLB start on Sunday?
A: I just have to go out there and take it as another start. If I try to make the moment too big, then I might not do things that I normally would do. I have to take it pitch-by-pitch and hope that I have prepared myself well enough.
Q: You’ve got a West Coast swing coming in two weeks in Anaheim and L.A. How many tickets are you shelling out for that?
A: Not that many, yet, I don’t know if people have seen that on the schedule yet. As far as family, it’s 15 to 20 with just family members. I expect a pretty big Bakersfield crowd there at both.
Q: Who do you lean on the most in the locker room?
A: It depends. As far as guys I just hang with are Hader and (Taylor) Williams. But as far as questions to a veteran guy is (Ryan) Braun or (Lorenzo) Cain. But our catcher, (Yasmani) Grandal, we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. We talk a lot. Getting that relationship with him will help, not only with myself, but all the pitchers as we get going into this season.
Q: You’re not just playing for some run-of-the-mill team this season, a deep playoff run is the goal. Does that make your first full season in the bigs that much more special?
A: We are returning basically 90 percent of the team from last year and the additions have only made us better. We are at an all-time level. We were one game away from the World Series last year. This is exciting. We are all pushing the chips in. We have this window of opportunity where the organization is all-in. It’s special to be a part of this team.
Q: The Brewers have never won a World Series and have been to just one back in 1982. How important is it for this team to win one for the fans?
A: We have one of the best fan bases in baseball. It doesn’t matter what day of the week, they put 35,000 in the seats. They are loud and they are excited. It’s going to be one of those years where we are all in.
Q: Have you changed anything to your pitching repertoire?
The only addition is a sinker. I only used fastball and slider as a reliever. (The slider is) basically something to give hitters a different look the second and third time through the order.
Q: There are some pretty iconic ballparks in MLB. Do you have one ‘dream’ park to pitch in?
A: Growing up an Angels fan, that would do it. Being back and playing in Anaheim against guys like Trout and Pujols, guys I grew up watching as a kid. That would be pretty cool.