The Brewers have optioned struggling right-hander Corbin Burnes to Triple-A, as Toby Harrmann of Brewerfan.net first reported on Twitter. Also heading down is reliever Jake Petricka, with Alex Wilson and Donnie Hart added to the active roster to take the openings.
Burnes, 24, impressed in a relief role last year after earning a mid-season call-up. But the hope was (and remains) that he’d be a quality starter in the long run. The Brewers decided to entrust a rotation spot to him to open the current campaign. After 17 2/3 innings of 10.70 ERA pitching, though, it was clear a change was in order.
In some ways, Burnes’s first four starts in the majors showed promise. He maintained mid-nineties velocity and a 14.1% swinging-strike rate while racking up 12.2 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Trouble is, opponents did quite a lot of damage when they did make contact. Burnes was tagged for eleven home runs (that’s an eye-watering 5.6 per nine) and a 51.7% hard contact rate.
The Brewers will hope that Burnes can sort things out at Triple-A. In the meantime, there are rotation questions to be answered. Freddy Peralta has had his own struggles and also hit the injured list, leaving two spots unspoken for.
Chase Anderson and Aaron Wilkerson are already up in the bullpen and could step into the rotation, though both have plenty left to prove. Perhaps Adrian Houser could be tapped for his first MLB start after a few prior relief appearances; he has thrown well in three Triple-A starts to begin the year. It’s also conceivable the team could pursue a reunion with Gio Gonzalez, who’s said to be triggering an opt-out clause in his deal with the Yankees, though there’ll be other organizations in on Gonzalez and that would mean freeing a 40-man spot.
Looking at the longer-term implications, Burnes will now need to earn his way back to the majors in order to push forward his service clock. Perhaps he’ll have a chance to do so, with paths available both in the rotation and relief corps. He’s sitting on 108 days of service at this point. That means he can spend only 100 days on optional assignment before he’d miss a chance at topping a full year of service by the end of the current campaign.