02/22/12 4:04 PM EST
Burroughs grateful for opportunity with Twins
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
Burroughs, once a top prospect with the Padres, saw his life spiral out of control after he stopped playing in the Majors in 2006, only to make a return to the big leagues last season with the D-backs.
It was a long road back for Burroughs, who suffered from substance abuse problems for several years before getting his life back together.
Burroughs used baseball as a motivating force in his recovery and was able to make his mark with Arizona in 2011, hitting .273 in 78 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter, to help the club advance to the playoffs.
Now the 31-year-old is getting a chance with the Twins, as he signed a Minor League deal and is competing to make the club in a utility role. But more importantly to Burroughs, he's just happy to be clean and playing the game he loves.
"Every day seems a blessing to me, to wake up and do what I do, and what I've accomplished in a year, and not just in baseball, but my life in general -- being a good son again, being a good friend, showing up and doing things I haven't done for a while," Burroughs said. "Baseball's just kind of like the cherry on top, it really is. I get to come out here and act like a kid every day and play the game I love. I have to kind of pinch myself. Every day is a new part of the stories, and now I'm in Fort Myers. I'm loving it."
Baseball fans have long been familiar with Burroughs, as the son of 1974 American League MVP Jeff Burroughs was a former Little League World Series star in '92 and '93, a first-round Draft pick by the Padres in '98 and one of the game's top prospects before making his debut as a 21-year-old in 2002.
But Burroughs struggled to live up to expectations in San Diego, and he never reached his power potential, hitting .282/.340/.360 in four seasons before being traded to the Rays, and playing in just eight games in 2006.
He played in just four Triple-A games in 2007 before calling it quits, and he said baseball became an afterthought for the next few years as he began a life of partying and developing friendships with people he refers to as "leeches."
But after pleas from family and friends to get straight and seeing his weight balloon to about 260 pounds, Burroughs -- who now weighs about 220 pounds -- decided it was time for a change in May 2010.
He moved in with his parents in Long Beach, Calif., got clean and eventually landed a tryout with the D-backs.
Burroughs impressed during that workout and ended up signing with the club, as D-backs general manager Kevin Towers -- who drafted Burroughs back when he was GM of the Padres -- decided to take a chance on him.
Burroughs was signed to a Minor League deal and started the 2011 season at Triple-A Reno before making his return to the Majors on May 19. It was a tough climb, but Burroughs said it was the perfect reward for the hard work he put in to get back there.
"Nothing was written in stone," Burroughs said. "Everything I did was to kind of get my foot in the door, that's how I looked at it and that's how I look at it here. Nothing will be given to me. You've got to work for it, you've got to compete for it, make your impression on people. That's what I've done so far, and hopefully that will continue."
Burroughs excelled in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting .316/.396/.382 in 38 games with the Margarita Braves. Triple-A Rochester manager Gene Glynn served as Margarita's third-base coach and had nothing but positive things to say about Burroughs.
"We got good reports on him," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "He had a lot of good things to say not only about his ability, but also his makeup. That's why we brought him in. And he fits here; we could use some depth there. I'm hoping he comes in and has a good spring."
Burroughs said he brought several gloves to Fort Myers, as he's expected to see playing time at third base and first base, and possibly second base and the outfield.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's heard all about Burroughs' journey back to the Majors, and he is excited to have him on the roster this spring.
"We all know everything he's been through," Gardenhire said. "This is an exciting time for him I'm sure, getting an opportunity to get back in here and this kid can play some baseball. Everything I've heard has been fantastic. Let's see how he does on the baseball field, but this will be pretty exciting. We saw him way back and he was a pretty good hitter and he handled himself."
But Burroughs knows it'll be another tough road to make the club, but considering all he's been through, he's more than ready for the challenge.
"Obviously, I'm not on the roster now, so I need to come in and win the job," Burroughs said. "I knew that when I signed with them, and that's fine. I've played at the big league level close to five years now, off and on, and know what it takes to get ready for a season."