When should Orioles fans start worrying about Corbin Burnes’ spring performance?

Corbin Burnes' rough start to spring training is definitely worth keeping an eye on ahead of Opening Day.
Feb 24, 2024; Sarasota, Florida, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) throws a
Feb 24, 2024; Sarasota, Florida, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) throws a / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The jewel of the Baltimore Orioles' offseason was the trade for Corbin Burnes that caught the entire league by surprise. The Orioles were in desperate need of a rotation upgrade heading into the 2024 season, and they went out and got a perennial Cy Young candidate. On paper, that is about as good as it gets without shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars on the free agent market.

Baltimore went ahead and named Burnes their Opening Day starter over the weekend, but not all has been well to start his tenure with the Orioles. In his first three starts this spring, Burnes has posted a 12.71 ERA in just 5.2 innings of work while allowing three home runs. All of the usual small sample size warnings apply here, but it is fair to wonder when Baltimore fans should start getting worried about the guy that was supposed to be the Orioles' ace in 2024.

Orioles fans shouldn't be worried about Burnes' crummy spring...yet

As good as Corbin Burnes has been in his career, he has never been particularly awesome in spring training. In 30 spring training appearances in his career, he holds just a 4.14 ERA, which is almost a full run worse than his career 3.26 ERA in the regular season. He has had some strong springs mixed in there, but it is possible that he is just a guy that holds back a good bit in spring training and experiments before letting things rip once the season starts.

The biggest tell that the Orioles aren't worried is that they established Burnes quickly as their Opening Day starter. Given that Burnes is still missing bats (seven strikeouts in those 5.2 innings of work), it stands to reason that his rough spring is more a function of some bad luck and adjusting to being on a new team than an indication of a bigger problem.

However, the Orioles can't afford for Burnes to take too long to adjust to his surroundings, as they will probably only have him for the 2024 season. If he struggles early on in 2024, that will represent a big chunk of the value the Orioles were hoping to get out of him in 2024. If there is a silver lining to all of this, it is the fact that Burnes is undoubtedly going to be highly motivated to pitch well in his walk year, as Burnes' pending free agency is definitely on his mind and a strong season could earn him an even richer payday next offseason.

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