Out of the darkness: Former Tigers No. 1 prospect Beau Burrows working to get back on fast track

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – If you twinned them up in the same video – Beau Burrows' first live bullpen session from spring training 1.0 in Lakeland and his outing Sunday in the Tigers’ intrasquad game, put them side by side and run it – you’d never believe it was the same pitcher.

“Yeah, my outing in the spring was terrible,” he said.

Beau Burrows

His outing Sunday was, to put it mildly, most encouraging. Two innings, two strikeouts, one hit (a line-drive single by Miguel Cabrera, no shame there).

“It felt great, like a huge relief,” said Burrows, who back in 2016 was the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect. “I feel healthy and back to my old self.”

The stadium radar gun is not turned on and Burrows didn’t check, but he was blowing his fastball past guys. Jorge Bonifacio will attest to that. He was the first hitter Burrows faced and was tardy on a 3-2 heater.  

“It felt like it was coming out pretty good,” Burrows said. “I felt like I was getting late swings. That felt nice.”

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These past 12 months or so have been a test for Burrows. His season at Triple-A Toledo last year was derailed by an oblique injury. Not only did that cost him a shot at making his big-league debut last year, it very nearly cost him a spot on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, as the club had to make room for a handful of younger prospects.

Fortunately, as it seems now, the Tigers stayed patient.

“It was weird,” he said. “It was a first for me. I was never injured in my career before 2019. Not being healthy and not being who I can be. … My confidence is pretty high now but I was down on myself last year, being injured. But the more I’ve been on the mound and the more I feel healthy, the better I feel.

“I just want to keep building on that.”

Tigers pitcher Beau Burrows throws during spring training in Lakeland in February.

Immediately after his rough live batting practice session in Lakeland, pitching coach Rick Anderson announced he was taking Burrows out of the mix while they work to fix some flaws in his mechanics. Part of that work involved the Tigers’ smart cage in Lakeland.

Burrows had sensors taped all over his body to record his biomechanics.

“It was nice to see how your body works and how it moves down the mound,” he said. “I had all the sensors and the cameras. It was cool to see what my body was doing and I got instant feedback with the Rapsodo machine. It helped a lot.”

He took that data to the back fields where he spent a couple of days in a laboratory environment with Anderson, director of pitching development Dan Hubbs, pitching coordinator A.J. Sager and several other organization pitching coaches.

They collectively figured out a way to sync up Burrows’ powerful lower body with his arm path and the release of the ball.

“It actually clicked in spring training,” Burrows said. “I went to the back fields with the pitching coaches and it literally clicked within a week. I was back to my old self. I was throwing hard again, up and down. I kept working at it, repeating it over and over and then took it into the quarantine time.

“It was just about being on time with my lower half, being in sync and once that clicked, I started to feel normal again. I don’t know how I got so far out of whack, but I just wasn’t in sync at all. But once it clicked and I got synced back up, it’s been good ever since.”

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Burrows isn’t likely to be on the 30-man opening day roster. Most likely, he will work on the taxi squad and continue to get stretched out so he would be available to either make a spot start or pitch in long relief.

But even that must seem light years from where he was in February, especially on Sunday as he stood on the mound at Comerica Park – a place he'd only dreamed of since being drafted in the first round in 2015..

“It was cool to be out there," he said. "It makes you want to stay."

Twitter @cmccosky