Burns does double damage in seventh

Jays infielder hits first two dingers for Fisher Cats in the frame

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com | July 7, 2013 6:32 PM

It took Andy Burns nearly 16 full games to knock his first Double-A home run. It took him about 15 minutes to get round-tripper No. 2.

The Blue Jays infield prospect homered twice in the bottom of the seventh inning Sunday for New Hampshire as the Fisher Cats routed the Binghamton Mets, 16-5.

"Honestly, that's my first multi-home run game in pro ball," the 22-year-old said. "So to get two in one inning is pretty crazy."

Burns spent the first half of the season dominating the Florida State League. He posted a .327 average with eight homers and 21 stolen bases in 64 games with Class A Advanced Dunedin, and made his debut with New Hampshire on June 21.

After collecting three hits in his debut, Burns went into a 1-for-22 slump that spanned five games. He's been slowing improving since and his 2-for-5, two-RBI game Sunday extended his current hitting streak to five games.

Burns thinks some recent mechanical adjustments have paired with a calmer mental approach to help him rediscover his FSL form.

"[Hitting coach Richie Hebner and I] kind of decided to limit some of the movement in my swing and get started a little earlier," Burns said. "I was really late and getting beat by pitches that, down in Florida, I wouldn't get beat by.

"I made adjustments with my movement and my swing and shortened it up so it's not quite as loud per se. That's something that over the last four or five days, I've been working with. It seems to be helping."

The first homer came off right-hander Ryan Fraser, who attempted to sneak a 1-0 fastball inside. Burns turned and connected on the pitch, driving the ball out down the left-field line. That home run led off the inning, and New Hampshire piled up six more runs -- including three on Brad Glenn's 11th homer of the season -- before Burns returned to the plate.

His second at-bat came against left-hander Adam Kolarek. After taking a fastball for a strike, Burns drove a change-up out to center field.

"I had actually faced him the night before and I knew what the action on the change-up was like," Burns said. "It was something I could drive, and I was lucky to put a good swing on it. It just went out to the left of the batter's eye."

Burns has emerged as something of a breakout prospect for Toronto this year after the team went overslot to nab him in the 11th round of the 2011 Draft. Burns technically came out of the University of Arizona, but never actually suited up for the Wildcats. In fact, he was drafted after going nearly a full calendar year without seeing game action.

The Fort Collins, Colo., native spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at the University of Kentucky, but was released from his scholarship after his sophomore campaign. Burns transferred to Arizona and spent the ensuing summer playing ball in the Cape Cod League, where he landed on scouting radars.

He joined Arizona that fall and went through the first semester preparing as though he would play for the 'Cats that spring. About two or three weeks prior to the season, an NCAA committee denied Burns' application to waive the rule requiring he sit a season because of his transfer.

"I was close to winning my eligibility," he said. "I think there's a seven-person committee, and I lost out by one vote, the swing vote."

Burns continued to work out with the team that spring and scouts came to see him in practice and intrasquads. Prior to the draft, Blue Jays area scout Blake Crosby invited him to a team workout, where he apparently impressed the Toronto front office.

"I thought it would be a draft-and-follow deal, but they picked me in the 11th round and got me the money I was asking for," Burns said.

Because Burns' reported $250,000 signing bonus was overslot, he had to wait for Major League Baseball to approve the deal and only played 28 games that season. The next season, Toronto promoted him to Class A Lansing for his first full season of baseball since 2010, and the results were expectedly mixed as he hit .248 with nine homers and an .815 OPS.

Burns' first full pro campaign was cut short by injury after he broke the scaphoid bone in his left hand. Though he'd initially hoped to avoid going under the knife, the injury required surgery and he wasn't given a clean bill of health until December. The infielder then committed himself to the gym and the batting cage, and he returned to game action at Dunedin this year.

The 22-year-old has also spent the season trying to improve his defensive versatility. A shortstop in college, he spent some time at second base last season, and this year, he's played predominantly as a third baseman in Toronto's system.

On Sunday, he played shortstop because Toronto's Brett Lawrie was in town rehabbing -- Lawrie went 1-for-3 with two walks. Although Burns doesn't mind shifting positions, the plan appears to be that he will rise through the system as a third baseman.

"I'm finally starting to get real comfortable over there," he said. "It's a different position than up the middle, in my opinion. The way I like to put it is, in the middle, you get to play the ball. At third, the ball more often than not plays you. I'm learning the different reads and angles over there, and that takes a while."

Toronto's No. 3 prospect Marcus Stroman improved to 5-2 by striking out eight while allowing two earned runs on four hits over seven innings. The 22-year-old has a 3.26 ERA in 10 Double-A starts this season.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More