The experiment of Ryan Burr in the starting rotation is officially over.
The sophomore right-hander tweeted Monday afternoon that he is returning to the bullpen and that he is excited to get back to closing games for ASU baseball.
It was a joint decision between Burr, head coach Tim Esmay and pitching coach Ken Knutson.
The timing of the announcement is interesting, as it follows the best start of his career. Burr went six innings Friday night against Gonzaga, allowing two runs on five hits while walking three. He struck out two in the outing and threw 102 pitches.
“I thought Ryan pitched a lot better this last week,” Esmay said. “He actually pitched OK against Long Beach State, just had a one big inning.”
Burr struggled in his first two starts, combining for 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs while also walking seven. He struck out eight and was unable to pitch into even the fifth inning in either start.
On Feb. 21 against Long Beach State, he went only 2 1/3 innings and allowed six runs.
It seemed like Burr had turned the corner Friday in ASU’s 10-5 win over Gonzaga. Esmay sent him out for the seventh inning in an effort to extend him, presumably for future outings.
After Sunday’s game, Esmay actually confirmed that he was pleased with Burr’s improvement and wasn’t considering moving him back to the bullpen.
“I’m happy,” Esmay said. “It’s a work in progress. He went through six the other night and it was more efficient.”
But instead he will be back in the bullpen, where he thrived last year. In 45 relief innings in 2013, Burr struck out 60 with a 2.20 ERA. He also set the ASU freshman saves record with 12.
His spot in the rotation will be filled by Sunday starter sophomore Brett Lilek, who in turn will be replaced by junior right-hander Darin Gillies.
Lilek has done everything he was asked to do in bringing stability to Sunday afternoons. He has pitched 14 innings to a 1.29 ERA and 17 strikeouts. He has also held opposing hitters to a .106 batting average.
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Benjamin Margiott also contributed to this report.