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First cut: Zip missing, Tigers option out former first-round pick Beau Burrows

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — You didn’t have to be a pitching guru to know something was amiss with former first-round draft pick Beau Burrows this spring. Just watching his first couple live bullpen sessions, it was clear he didn’t have his usual zip.

Validation of that came in his only Grapefruit League outing, the opener Feb. 22, when he was tagged for five runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning. He hasn’t pitched since, spending his days on the back fields working to straighten out his mechanics.

Beau Burrows was the first spring-training cut by the Tigers on Friday.

Thus it was not a surprise that he was the first pitcher sent out of camp. The Tigers on Friday optioned Burrows to Triple-A Toledo and sent outfielder Jacob Robson (who missed the last two weeks with concussion symptoms) to minor-league camp.

“We just need to get him going,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of Burrows. “They’ve made some headway on where he’s at, trying to get his velocity back.”

Gardenhire talked to Burrows on Friday morning.

“We just told him, ‘Don’t try to rush anything,’” Gardenhire said. “Go take care of your body and your arm. He said he’s not hurting at all, he just lost his mechanics.

"He got all screwed up. Now it’s just about figuring it out and finding it.

“Obviously, he wasn’t throwing the ball right up here.”

Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson both told Burrows, the 22nd overall pick in 2015, that his path to the big leagues will most likely be as a reliever.

“Ultimately in the end it will probably be in the bullpen,” Gardenhire said.

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“We think he could be one of those power arms in the bullpen who can come in short stints and blow some people away if he can get that velo back.

“It’s not a given (that he will be a reliever), that’s just our thought process for the future. With all the starters we have here, that’s where he probably fits. We told him that…He’ll find himself. He has big-league stuff when he’s right.”

Robson was struck in the head by a foul line drive while sitting in the dugout, also in the Grapefruit League opener on Feb. 22. He has been in concussion protocol since.

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Back field work

It was Tigers ace Matthew Boyd’s turn to pitch on the back fields Thursday, stepping aside so prospect Casey Mize could get a start against the Yankees.

Boyd pitched four innings and threw close to 50 pitches against minor league hitters. But the way Boyd approached it, it might as well have been D.J. LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and company.

“I am going to go out there and attack, right?” said Boyd, who is on schedule to start opening day in Cleveland, though that’s not official. “Going back there, more than anything else was affirmation that regardless of location, geography, the opponent – my game doesn’t change. It stays the same.

“It was an awesome chance to do that out there. It can be a trap to say, ‘I’m going to go back there and just get my work in.’ That’s not what I do when I take the mound.”

Twitter: @cmccosky