How the four players with Michigan ties fared in the All-Star Futures Game. Video by Ryan Ford/DFP
MIAMI — Over the past year, Beau Burrows can’t seem to avoid crossing paths with Michael Fulmer.
On an off day in 2016, when Burrows was pitching for the Detroit Tigers’ West Michigan affiliate, he took a day trip to Comerica Park, where he encountered Fulmer in the midst of a Rookie of the Year season, and accepted his advice that mastering a change-up would accelerate his path to the big leagues.
During spring training in February, Burrows was not in big league camp but often found himself out to dinner with Fulmer – who presumably picked up the tab.
And tonight, Fulmer was on Burrows’ radar once again, as Burrows hits another symbolic marker as a rising prospect with his inclusion in Major League Baseball’s Futures Game.
In the early hours of Monday morning, Fulmer was due to arrive for his appearance in Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
Still humble, perhaps a bit sheepish, Burrows said he wasn’t sure if he’d text Fulmer before heading out of town.
Yet it seems the two could meet with much greater frequency very soon.
Burrows’ rise into a place of prominence in the Tigers’ plans continued with a scoreless inning in today’s Futures Game, and that the event featured a pair of Detroit prospects – hard-throwing left-handed reliever Jairo Labourt is the other – is more than just symbolic.
Burrows played on the winning team as the U.S. defeated the World, 7-6.
Tigers prospect and U.S. Team pitcher Beau Burrows delivers the pitch against the World Team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park on July 9, 2017 in Miami. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann Getty Images)
Fulmer has established himself as a consistently dominant rotation force. If nothing else, he carved a path Burrows is wise enough to follow.
“He’s a good guy, a good role model to try and look up to and follow the footsteps he put down this year and last year,” Burrows, 20, said this afternoon.
A couple hours later, Burrows showed his upside in eye-opening fashion, working a clean inning and striking out top prospects Amed Rosario (Mets) and Rafael Devers (Red Sox) on pitches that registered 96 and 98 m.p.h.
The one-inning sample isn’t indicative of how he’d work a regular game, of course, but it’s also impossible to deny the steps forward Burrows has taken. He has dominated in high-Class A Lakeland (Fla.), posting a 1.23 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 11 starts.
The going has been rougher in six starts at Double-A Erie — a 5.59 ERA — but then, Burrows says he knows the jump only rivals the big league leap as the toughest.
World pitcher Jairo Labourt throws a pitch during the 2017 MLB Futures Game at Marlins Park on July 9. (Photo: Steve Mitchell USA TODAY Sports)
Labourt entered the game for the World Team with two out in the bottom of the seventh and faced just one hitter, striking out Bo Bichette, who was just promoted out of Single-A Lansing.
Already in Erie was Labourt, who spent just 20 days in Lakeland – striking out 22 in 13 2/3 innings – before joining Erie’s staff. Labourt has continued to flourish there and, as a lefty whose fastball now touches 96 mph out of the bullpen, his move to Detroit could be a quick one.
Labourt credits West Michigan pitching coach Jorge Cordova for aiding his development, and said through an interpreter that he realizes cleaner mechanics and improved fastball command are musts before he advances further.
A club-controlled, potentially dominant lefty? That would certainly add a twist to the Tigers’ ongoing search for relief help.
The Tigers brought Labourt into big league camp this spring, where Labourt largely kept to himself. The Dominican Republic native – who grew up idolized Venezuelan Johan Santana – said the experience was an eye-opener, and he’s relishing the thought of his next camp.
“I felt uncomfortable the first time this year,” Labourt said. “Next year, of course, when I go back I’ll feel much more comfortable.”