Prospect Burrows shows flashes of brilliance

At Double-A, 20-year-old Tigers righty also battling command, tendency to overthrow

Prospect Burrows shows flashes of brilliance

ERIE, Pa. -- Beau Burrows has his fair share of stretches when he looks like a 20-year-old pitcher in Double-A ball, trying to hold his own against hitters a few years older than he is. He'll battle his command, try to overthrow and end up out of games on pitch counts earlier than expected.

But then, he'll have those moments that remind everyone why he's in Double-A ball at age 20, and why he's one of the top prospects in the Tigers' system -- ranked No. 4 by MLBPipeline.com.

Burrows had given up a run in his first two batters Sunday against Hartford, on an excuse-me single and an RBI double. Rearing back, he proceeded to strike out the middle of the Hartford lineup on 10 pitches. He used three different pitches, including a first-pitch curveball, to strike out 15th-ranked Rockies prospect Brian Mundell, then sent three consecutive fastballs past Cornelle Prime.

Four innings later, Burrows gave up three consecutive singles to loaded the bases with nobody out for the same part of the lineup. This time, he needed 11 pitches to strike out the next three hitters, his fastball reaching 97 mph to fan back-to-back batters.

"It was probably a lot of adrenaline, and then really bearing down, not wanting to let those runs score," Burrows said. "Probably mostly adrenaline."

With general manager Al Avila and assistant GM David Chadd in attendance, Burrows struck out 10 for the second time in his past three outings, tying his career high. He finished six innings for the first time since his end-of-May promotion from Class A Lakeland.

Asked if that was Burrows' best outing in Erie, SeaWolves manager Lance Parrish smiled. He, too, wonders if it takes adversity to get the best out of his young right-hander.

"After the first couple innings, it ranked pretty high, especially after he punched everybody out with the bases loaded," Parrish said. "He's been hot and cold, more or less. Obviously he's got tremendous ability, but it's just the consistency that holds him back. Once he fine-tunes things, I think he's going to be much better. He demonstrated what he's capable of doing.

"He's obviously very talented. He just needs some work, that's all."

The Tigers promoted Burrows aggressively to get him that. With a 1.23 ERA over 11 starts at Class A Lakeland, they wanted to challenge him. Thus, after Burrows finished a cautious full season at low Class A West Michigan last year, they pushed.

"I was obviously surprised," Burrows said, "but I felt like I was ready to come up to the next level and pitch and do my thing."

Sunday was his 11th start for Erie. His 4.85 ERA is a vast difference, as is a rate of 4.0 walks per nine innings. But he again has more strikeouts than innings, a massive jump over last year.

"My mentality now is to go after the hitters and let them make the mistakes. If I get the strikeout, then I get the strikeout," Burrows said. "But I feel like when I get ahead of the hitters, then I'm going to get them out, and if I fall behind, they're probably going to get on base or do whatever. But the biggest lesson I've learned is getting ahead of hitters and making the pitch that I need to make and letting them get themselves out."

That challenge at Double-A has helped him with more than his fastball. His curveball is tighter than before with enough command to throw in any count. His changeup and slider continue to improve.

At times Sunday, he had it all working. When that's going, even when he looks like he's pitching angry, he's having fun.

"It's been a fun last couple months," Burrows said. "The season's going by really fast now."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.