Tucson Padres: Ex-Cats Mills, Burns seek return to majors

Pitchers are jumping around minor leagues, which is OK for now
2013-05-15T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Ex-Cats Mills, Burns seek return to majorsZack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Former Arizona Wildcats Brad Mills and Cory Burns have found themselves in the job-searching purgatory that many college students find themselves in since leaving UA baseball and head coach Andy Lopez for greener pastures.

They want a full-time job in the major leagues but have been able to find only part-time gigs.

Mills, a starting pitcher, has made 15 appearances (10 starts) in the majors in the last four years with the Angels and Blue Jays. Burns, a relief pitcher, saw time in 17 games last year for the San Diego Padres - otherwise spending his time pitching for their Tucson Triple-A affiliate.

Now, Mills and Burns are playing together with the Round Rock Express, Texas' Triple-A team, for the first time since Mills was a senior and Burns a sophomore on Lopez's pitching staff in 2007.

"It definitely helped break the ice in the beginning because he was the only guy I really knew when I came over here," Mills said.

"We get to reminisce about old times," Burns added, with a smile. "I love Brad, he's been a friend of mine for a long time, and I'm happy that he's one of the guys from the U of A that made it to the big leagues. We're trying to get back."

In the six years since Burns and Mills last played together, the Express' resident Wildcat duo has been around the block.

Mills joined his third team in three years when the Rangers picked him up off waivers in March. He arrived after spending one year with the Angels and three with the Blue Jays, and Burns came to Round Rock after time with the Padres and Indians in the last few years.

"You always look to get to the big leagues," said Round Rock manager Bobby Jones, "and hope they go someplace that somebody will give them a shot. Where they were before wasn't a good place for them, so they came here. (If) they don't get it here, next year they go somewhere else. It's not so hard on the players - it's more hard on the families - but you just gotta go out and put up numbers for somebody to look at you."

So far this season, that's exactly what Mills and Burns have done. Burns started out the season on a 13-game, 12 2/3-inning scoreless streak before giving up two runs against Tucson on Sunday. Mills is tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with five wins.

Talking before Tuesday night's series-wrapping game at Kino Stadium, which the Padres won 12-1, Mills and Burns didn't sound too concerned about bouncing around the minors as they pursue a full-time spot in the major leagues, be it with the Texas Rangers or somebody else.

"It's the nature of the game," Mills said. "As (Andy) Lopez would tell us, our job is to get out there on the mound and throw strikes. That (switching teams) might affect things a little bit, but when you get there in games it doesn't change your job description at all."

¡Tus Padres!

Tucson 12, Round Rock 1

• Highlight: After two straight close games filled with comebacks, the Padres never really allowed the Express the shot at one in scoring nine second-inning runs. In the inning, the Padres had 13 batters come to the plate and had three doubles, five singles and two walks to take complete control of the ballgame. Tucson tacked on three more runs for good measure in the bottom of the sixth in its fifth straight win.

• Big number: 10. Wins in the last 11 games for the Padres. In those 11 games, Tucson catcher Rene Rivera batted .500 in 40 at-bats - including Tuesday's 4-for-4 performance, to bring his season batting average to .402.

Zack Rosenblatt

Up next

• What: Padres at Iowa

• When: 4:35 p.m. Thursday

• Radio: 1290-AM

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