July 22, 2024

SARASOTA, Fla. – Corbin Burnes coasted through the first inning today, retiring the Red Sox in order on nine pitches and throwing seven for strikes. Cedric Mullins made a nice running catch in left-center to deny Pablo Reyes.

The second inning couldn’t have gone much worse. Couldn’t have been more dramatically different than the rest of Burnes’ outing.

A crazy day for the veteran right-hander, who was outstanding in four of his five frames. But also important in being able to solve the issue and do good work with the new people in his baseball life.

Bobby Dalbec and Wilyer Abreu hit back-to- back home runs, the former on a two-strike fastball. Burnes committed throwing errors while attempting pickoffs at first and second base, and the Red Sox took advantage with an RBI single by Tyler Heineman and sacrifice fly by Dalton Guthrie to deep center field.

A 2-0 lead for the Orioles became a 4-2 deficit, and Burnes threw 20 pitches in the inning. On the plus side, 17 were strikes.

Anthony Santander, in his first appearance at first base, made a nice stop of Eddy Alvarez’s blistering grounder in the second inning, fired to second for the force and dropped the relay from Gunnar Henderson.

Henderson assisted Burnes by backhanding David Hamilton’s grounder in deep short and throwing him out to end the second. A reminder that Henderson is Gold Glove worthy but might not get enough starts.

Burnes has surrendered five home runs in four starts. But the Red Sox gave him their best shots and shut down.

As if flipping a switch, Burnes was back to form in the third. He got three outs on 10 pitches, seven for strikes, to leave him at 39/31. He had another spotless inning in the fourth, throwing seven of eight pitches for strikes and fanning two. And another in the fifth on 11 pitches, nine strikes.

Can’t deny that the veteran was living in the zone.

“Being able to do that allows us to get into what we got into today,” Burnes said. “When you get ahead and you work ahead of hitters and get to do certain things in certain counts, it made it easier for us to get on the same page. Previous outings, when you’re starting every hitter 2-0, it’s tough to kind of get in that same rhythm.”

Eleven in a row were retired after Heineman’s RBI single. Burnes went 1-2-3 in four of his five innings.

His final list showed three earned runs and four total with four hits, no walks, two strikeouts and two home runs in five innings. He threw 58 pitches, 47 for strikes.

Burnes has allowed 11 earned runs this spring in 10 2/3 innings.

“We found something in the third today,” he said. “That was kind of the big win for the day is mechanically some things clicked, sequencing, me and Adley (Rutschman) were on the same page and kind of rolled from there. As well as our pitching guys in the dugout.”

Burnes is establishing relationships with the catchers and coaches, part of his spring workload that can’t be downplayed.

“Got to the point where we were very comfortable with each other, know what we wanted to do out there,” Burnes said. “It got to the point where before Adley was calling a pitch I already had it in my head. It was good for that to click today. And we just did a lot better job of commanding the baseball today.

“It was one of those things where we’re kind of right where we need to be right now. I think they said in the dugout I was 16 of 19 for first-pitch strikes, so that’s always a good thing. But yeah, today was definitely a good day as far as that relationship goes with pitch calling and sequencing.”

Burnes has another start left and needs to increase his pitch count before Opening Day. He’d like to get around the 80-85 mark.

“We were almost too efficient today,” he said.

* Craig Kimbrel entered in the sixth and walked Reyes on four pitches. He retired the next three batters after Reyes’ stolen base, striking out Dalbec and Abreu and clenching his fist as he hopped off the mound.

That’s three consecutive scoreless outings for Kimbrel after allowing five runs over his first two.

“Today I was a little disappointed obviously in the four-pitch walk to start the inning, but being able to get out of it with two strikeouts kind of lets me know I’m back-spinning the ball pretty good,” he said. “I threw some good breaking pitches today. Overall, felt good.”

Kimbrel will be closing in the regular season and must be trying to create his own energy and intensity in the middle of an exhibition game with nothing on the line.

“I’m out there working on what I need to do to get to the next step to get closer to Opening Day,” he said. “Each and every outing I try to take one step forward, whether it be having more control, my ball spinning like I want it to, or my velocity going up. Just taking it one step at a time and I’ve been able to do that.

“I had some that weren’t so great early on, but I didn’t worry about that too much because I knew what I was working on out there, and just took it into the next outing and tried to do better and better. And where I am now, I feel pretty good.”

Kimbrel’s next two appearances will be back-to-back, “to really get my body ready and used to throwing two games in a row and see how I come out of that,” he said.

“Then we’ll be ready for Opening Day. Ready for the adrenaline and ready for the lights and ready to have some fun.”

* Coby Mayo singled in the second and fifth innings and doubled in the seventh to give him 13 hits in 36 at-bats. That’s a .361 average with a 1.076 OPS.

He’s gonna be a tough cut if he isn’t on the team.

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