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Opening Day Countdown: Hiram Burgos

The Brewers are a mere 66 days away. Coincidentally, 66 is also Hiram Burgos' current Brewers Jersey number.

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Hiram Burgos has been with the Brewers his entire professional career. Hailing from Puerto Rico, the Brewers drafted the right handed pitcher in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. He was the 196th pick that year. He made steady progression through the minor league system before finally making his major league debut in the spring of 2013.

To be exact, his first major league appearance came on April 20th. He tossed 5 really good innings against the Chicago Cubs, allowing just one run. In six major league starts that year he only allowed more than 3 runs once. But that one time skewed his season stats in a big way. He gave up 10 earned runs in 3 innings to the Cincinnati Reds. Outside of that one game, he looked like he might be a diamond in the rough. Unfortunately for him, he has yet to reappear at the major league level.

Still, he's appeared with the Brewers minor league clubs in some capacity every year since. Most recently he was re-signed as a minor league free agent. He's one of a number of players to receive a non-roster invite to spring training. As the Brewers are at the start of what could become a rather extensive rebuild, it's not impossible he gets another shot at baseball's highest level. He's not currently on the 40-man roster though, so that might take some trades, DFA's, and/or injuries.

Burgos is a finesse pitcher. He's always had pretty solid walk rates which is very necessary because all of his pitches are rather fringe. His fastball sits in the high 80's. During his time at the majors his average fastball velocitywas 87.8 mph. There aren't a lot of pitchers that can last in MLB with that kind of velocity.

Perhaps his best claim to fame in his time with the Brewers was teaching the knuckle curve to Jimmy Nelson. Perhaps the Brewers current top MLB pitcher, Nelson credits Hiram Burgos with teaching him the pitch a few years ago. The effectiveness of the pitch started to taper off towards the end of the season--which might have been expected since it's the first time he's employed it throughout real game action and over the course of an entire season--but its early shape was impressive and its existence as part of his repertoire raises his potential ceiling at least half a grade, if not a full grade. Stuff like that coming out of nowhere doesn't happen. So for that we should all thank Hiram Burgos.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention his appearance with Team Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. I can't find individual game recaps but I remember watching those games and being impressed/excited about Burgos. His team went far into the competition too. They started in the highly competitive Pool C which included the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Spain. The DR went 3-0 and PR went 2-1 to advance. These two teams would meet in the Championship Game--after Puerto Rico beat Japan by a score of 3-2. The Dominican Republic came out on top though. It was still a really fun tournament to watch and I'm pretty jazzed about the next one which takes place next winter.

Looking over his career it feels like he's been around forever at this point. But he's still only 28 years old. Perhaps he won't ever make his mark in MLB, but he's had a pretty commendable career so far. And that's something that shouldn't go unnoticed. Perhaps one day he'll transition to the coaching side of things and turn Brewers pitching into a behemoth on the back of that knuckle curve.