Former Arizona relief pitcher Cory Burns, who played for the Wildcats from 2006-09, made his Major League debut on Aug. 4 for the San Diego Padres, becoming the 66th Wildcat to reach the pinnacle of baseball.
In his debut, Burns entered from the bullpen in the fifth inning and pitched 1.2 scoreless innings for the Padres, who lost to the New York Mets, 6-2. A right-hander known for his deceptive side-arm delivery, Burns allowed two hits and walked three in his initial game, but recorded two strikeouts and was able to prevent any runs from crossing home. He also had one at-bat, a strikeout.
"My manager just blurted it out in the middle of the clubhouse in Round Rock," Burns told MLB.com writer Chelsea Janes last week about receiving news of his promotion. "I was just in awe. It was surreal; it was unbelievable. I knew I had been throwing the ball well lately, but it was just surreal."
Burns earned a call-up to the big leagues after a sensational season with the Padres' Triple-A affiliate in Tucson. Prior to his jump to San Diego, Burns was 1-2 with a 2.63 ERA (19 ER/65.0 IP) in 53 relief appearances for Triple-A Tucson in 2012, averaging 1.2 strikeouts per inning with 77 on the season. Burns did not allow a run in his last 15 outings for Tucson (dating back to 6/30), recording an 18.2 innings scoreless streak during which he allowed just five hits while striking out 21.
San Diego optioned Burns back to Triple-A Tucson on Aug. 6, where he will work to build on his strong campaign, the latest in a rapid ascension through the minor leagues. Burns has been an All-Star in three of his four minor league seasons, including in 2011 when he set a franchise record with 35 saves and was named the Double-A Relief Pitcher of the Year with the Akron Aeros, an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. He was traded to the Padres organization in December and was assigned to Triple-A Tucson to begin the season.
At Arizona, Burns set a record for appearances in a single season with 40 in 2009 and his 94 career appearances are second-most in program history. As a senior in 2009, Burns established a career high with 54 strikeouts in just 47.1 innings pitched. That year he allowed only 9-of-30 (30 percent) inherited runners to score and was named an honorable mention All-Pac-10 player. Burns finished his UA career with a 3.80 ERA, an 8-3 record and three saves.
A total of 66 former Arizona baseball players have played in the Major Leagues. Of those, 11 were coached by Arizona head coach Andy Lopez, who recently guided the Wildcats to their fourth national championship. Lopez, who has coached the Wildcats since 2002, was named the National Coach of the Year for the third time in his 30-year career in which he is one of only two coaches all-time to a win a national championship at multiple schools.