Burns’ Unique Delivery Provides Lots Of Deception
Everything is still a new experience for right-hander Cory Burns.
Last year after being taken by the Indians in the 8th round out of the 2009 Draft out of the University of Arizona, Burns did well in his first taste of pro ball by going out to short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley and putting up a good showing by finishing 3-2 with 11 saves and a 1.93 ERA in 22 appearances. This spring he is getting his first taste of spring training, and then will shuttle off to either Low-A Lake County or High-A Kinston where he will get his first taste of a full 140-game five month baseball season.
“Things are good,” said Burns after practice on Wednesday. “I have thrown twice so far and I came into camp in shape and everything feels good right now. Honestly, I did not really know what to expect [coming here for spring training]. Nobody really told me a whole lot about it and I did not ask a lot of questions. But you just get in and get your work done for the day, and then relax the rest of the day.”
Burns does not throw very hard as he tops out around 90 MPH on his best days, and none of his three pitches a fastball, slider and changeup are considered plus pitches, though the changeup is an above average pitch and at times flashes plus ability. But while he does not throw very hard, he creates a lot of deception with his arm slot and windup which help play up the effectiveness of all of his pitches.
Going into his last year of college Burns changed his arm slot from over-the-top to sidearm and he made a dramatic change to his delivery where he has a varied pause in the beginning of his delivery and then turns his entire body around so his back is completely facing the hitter before twisting back around and firing the ball to home plate. This helps hide the ball and the hitter never really sees it until it leaves his hand (video of Burns pitching).
“My first year of college I was over-the-top,” said Burns. “I could not get anybody out and it was atrocious. It first started when we moved my arm slot [down] and my senior year we just came up with the goofiest windup we could think of and see if I could throw strikes with it and it ended up working. It works pretty well. My pause when I first start, I can go quick or slow. It depends on if I have the right grip I want as when I am comfortable with it usually that is when I go. But if a hitter is right on me, I can vary things up.”
Being a senior in college and really one last chance to get drafted and noticed by a big league team, Burns had nothing to lose by making the drastic change to his delivery.
“Exactly,” said Burns. “All it could do was help me to be as deceptive as possible. I am not a 95+ MPH guy as I am a sidearm sinkerballer. My way of getting outs is being deceptive to the hitter.”
Burns had some issues with walks in college, though last year at Mahoning Valley he did a good job to limit them as he only had 6 walks in 32.2 innings (1.7 BB/9). More impressively he had 37 strikeouts in those 32.2 innings (10.3 K/9). At the moment he is just concentrating mostly on continuing to throw strikes consistently.
“I’m just trying to throw strikes,” said Burns. “That’s my biggest thing right now is not walking people as I had a problem with walking people in college. When I got into pro ball that was the biggest thing they said was don’t walk people, and it seemed to be pretty successful in Mahoning Valley last year.”
Sarianides Could Be A Late Round Gem
Like a lot of players from the 2009 Draft, right-handed reliever Nick Sarianides is enjoying his first spring training. The excitement of the new season and the limitless possible outcomes is enough to make any player dream and get pumped up, but before all that can start they have to get ready for the season with four weeks of spring training. For a lot of the new pitchers, getting used to all of the throwing done in spring training can take some getting used to.
“It is going pretty good,” said Sarianides after practice on Thursday. “It’s not what I expected, but it is different. We do a lot of throwing and they are long days with a lot of work and getting here early. I am not used to that, so it is something to get used to.”
Sarianides is working on his tempo to not rush as much on the mound, but he is also working on adding a changeup to his three pitch mix this spring. He has always mostly been a fastball-slider pitcher, with the fastball being his best pitch as it consistently sits at 91-93 MPH and has touched 95 MPH. The addition of the changeup could give him another weapon, and something to attack lefties with.
“I am working on my changeup and it is coming along,” said Sarianides. “I’ve always had it but it was never good enough to throw in a game. I have been throwing it a lot here, and it will be a third pitch to give a different look.”
Sarianides was taken in the 28th round of the draft last year out of Chattahoochee Junior College (AL). He and the Indians were initially unable to come to terms on a contract, so he became a summer draft-and-follow where the Indians kept tabs of his performance in the Great Lakes Summer League in Ohio. He did really well pitching against wood bats for the first time, and when the Indians came calling later in the summer in August they were able to come to an agreement and he officially became an Indian.
After signing his pro contract, Sarianides was shuffled off to the rookie level Arizona League where he impressed by going 2-3 with a 2.33 ERA in 14 appearances in what is considered a hitter’s league. At the conclusion of the Arizona League season at the end of August, the Indians sent him to Low-A Lake County to give him some exposure to the level he likely will pitch most of his 2010 season at.
“It was hot [pitching in the Arizona League],” said Sarianides. “But, it wasn’t that big of a transition from college. [When I got to Lake County], I had never played in front of that many people before, so it was a lot of fun. It was a lot tougher compared to down [in Arizona]. When I left here it was 115 degrees and up there it was like 50 degrees. I was cold there, so that was a big difference.”
Haley Showing More Physical, Mental Maturity
Right-hander Trey Haley looks a lot stronger and bigger in camp, which is a byproduct of the 19-year olds commitment to his offseason workouts to get stronger and put on some good weight. He is still very tall and lanky, often typical for teenagers, but his body is starting to mature physically and fill out.
“They give us a workout plan as kind of a guideline on what to do,” said Haley about his offseason workouts. “In the offseason you lift heavier to try and gain more weight, and I think I put on probably about ten pounds.”
Last year at Low-A Lake County he suffered through the ups and downs of learning how to pitch without his best stuff and the numbers showed as he finished the year 4-8 with a 5.56 ERA in 19 appearances (16 starts). But his poor numbers had a lot to do with the fact he was not using his bread and butter pitches his four-seam fastball and curveball, but instead mostly focusing on developing a changeup and a new two-seam fastball. This spring he is incorporating his four-seam fastball and curveball back into his regular pitch mix and should be good to go to mix all four of his pitches when attacking hitters on the mound this year.
“I was just working on four-seam down and away [last year],” said Haley. “I had live BP [on Tuesday] and I threw both my four-seam and two-seam fastball and also my curveball and changeup. I am still working on the changeup, but it has come a long way since last year and I feel a lot more comfortable with it. I like working on the changeup, and it is a pitch I am going to need down the road. So I have to keep throwing it. I am throwing all my pitches now, so I feel good with everything.”
As far as any mechanical adjustments go, it is still very early in the season and no big changes are being implemented to Haley or anyone else’s mechanics. The idea right now is mostly centered around stretching the pitchers out and getting them ready for the season. If some issues are seen, coaches will make a few minor corrections, but anything major was already changed in the offseason or will be addressed as they get into the season.
“Just staying back over the rubber and finishing my pitches and staying closed,” said Haley about what he is concentrating on mechanically. “But the main thing is just going out and throwing strikes.”
Pestano On The Mend: Right-handed reliever Vinnie Pestano is working his way back from the elbow injury which sidelined him for the second half of the season last year. Elbow soreness cropped up in July and wiped out the rest of his season, and then after going to the Arizona Fall League for some action it came up again. Things were going very well for him in January and February as he felt the best he had in a long time and had changed his arm slot to sidearm rather than submarine. He threw 12-13 bullpen sessions in February and felt great; however, he had a setback last Monday where he suffered a minor injury to his shoulder while weight lifting. He should only be out a week and then get back into action, and he thinks he should be healthy enough to open the season at Double-A Akron. Of course, that is up to the Indians as they may opt instead to open him in extended spring training and then move him to Akron in late April or early May.
Utility Situation: When the Indians claimed infielder Anderson Hernandez off of waivers on Wednesday from the Mets, it all but locked him in as the utility guy for the big league club. The Indians like his ability to play both shortstop and second base, plus like that he can run and switch hits. Bixler was DFAed, but if he clears waivers they will probably keep him as the utility guy in Triple-A Columbus though they were not really impressed with what they saw of him this spring. The real interesting story may come later in camp as I’m hearing if Mark Grudzielanek continues to play well and makes a run these last few weeks that Luis Valbuena may be the odd man out and be sent to Columbus to start the season. Even though the Indians have played him some at third base this spring, Grudzielanek is viewed strictly as a second baseman at the moment.
Pontius Showing Progress: Right-hander Mike Pontius is feeling a lot better this spring than he did last season. It was a rough year for him as he had a leg injury in spring training which slowed him down and then about halfway through the season had a minor tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his pitching elbow. The tear was not severe, so he and the Indians opted to have it heal naturally instead of having to undergo Tommy John surgery, and so far the decision looks to have paid off as he feels very good this spring. He is pitching with limited if any restrictions, and could be healthy enough to open the season at High-A Kinston.
Burns Health Status: Right-handed reliever Eddie Burns is back and completely healthy this spring after his season last year was cut short because of a shoulder injury which led to labrum surgery. He is pitching without any restrictions, and is in a dogfight with many other pitchers to make the bullpen at either High-A Kinston or Low-A Lake County. If he is not released, the Indians could play it safe and have him start the year in extended spring training and be one of the first calls to fill a spot in Kinston or Lake County when poor performance or injury issues crop up.
Hagadone Starting: For those worried about left-hander Nick Hagadone being sent to the bullpen, this is not happening anytime soon. He is currently being built up to where he can go five innings by the start of the season. There are few if any restrictions with his recovery from Tommy John surgery almost two years ago now, so he should be on the same pitch count at the start of the season as the rest of the starters. It looks like he will start the season in High-A Kinston, but there appears to be a remote possibility he could open the season in Double-A Akron.
Suspend & Release: Indians minor league pitcher Jeffry Cleto was given a 50-game suspension by Minor League Baseball after he tested positive for metabolites of Stanozolol, which is a performance enhancing substance. He was on the Indians’ Dominican Summer League roster and the suspension is effective at the start of the 2010 season. In response to the suspension, the Indians have released him with no cost to the team. He had been signed on December 30th.
Videos: Here is the next batch of videos from spring training, and again, thanks to Michael Taylor for the work on editing these on such short notice: Matt Langwell, Marty Popham, Jess Todd, Lou Marson, Frank Herrmann, JD Goryl, Jeremy Johnson, Dallas Cawiezell, Dave Roberts, Cory Burns, Bryan Price, and Zach Putnam.
Today: Today is the start of minor league spring games as the Indians four full season affiliates will play against the Brewers four full season affiliates. Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron will play at Goodyear, while High-A Kinston and Low-A Lake County will travel to Maryvale. Scheduled to throw today for Columbus and Akron in Goodyear are: Zach Putnam, Eric Berger, Steven Wright, Carlton Smith, Josh Tomlin, Dallas Cawiezell (backup), Kelvin De La Cruz, Nick Hagadone, Chen Lee, Bryce Stowell, Brian Grening (backup), and Eddie Burns (backup). I am pretty sure I will see the box scores from these games, and when available I will be posting them on the site.
Coming Up: Today is my last day at camp as I sadly must leave and head back to wonderful Cleveland, Ohio (sarcasm alert). There will not be a notebook piece for Saturday since I will be packing up tonight and then traveling tomorrow morning and afternoon, but I plan to post a final notebook piece with what happened today and more on Sunday.