Patrick Reusse: Cleaned-up hitter gets another shot with Twins

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 22, 2012 - 8:42 AM

Drugs and alcohol short-circuited Sean Burroughs' career. Now sober, he has signed on with the Twins.

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Sean Burroughs returned to the big leagues with Arizona last season, five years after his previous appearance.

Photo: Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

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Gene Glynn was coaching third base for the Chicago Cubs and then San Francisco during the four seasons (2002-05) that Sean Burroughs played third base for the San Diego Padres.

"You talk to the opposing third baseman a lot when you're coaching there," Glynn said. "I looked forward to seeing Sean. He always came off as an upbeat guy. And then the Padres traded him and he kind of dropped out of the picture."

Glynn went to Acrigua, Venezuela, last fall to coach for Don Baylor in the winter league. The third baseman was Burroughs.

Glynn had been negotiating with the Twins to become the manager at Class AAA Rochester. The announcement was made in late November. And that enabled Glynn to give a strong recommendation for Burroughs when asked by the Twins.

As it turned out, Baylor and Glynn were fired at Acrigua -- those things happen routinely in the Caribbean leagues -- in mid-December, a couple of days before the Twins signed Burroughs as a minor league free agent.

"Í had no idea what Sean had gone through," Glynn said. "He looked the same to me as he did five years earlier: 215 or 220 pounds, in great shape, knew what he wanted to do at the plate and good with the glove."

What Burroughs had gone through were four years of alcohol and drug abuse that mirrors the tale of Josh Hamilton, who went from the No. 1 overall draft choice, to a heroin addiction, to the American League's MVP for the Texas Rangers in 2010.

Sean's father, Jeff, was the AL's MVP (also for the Rangers) in 1974. Sean was the star of the Long Beach, Calif., team that won the Little League World Series. He was the ninth overall pick by the Padres in 1998. He was in the lineup on Opening Day in 2002.

Five years later, he played four games for Seattle's Class AAA team in Tacoma and was released. By then, he was partying hard and hanging out with low-rent acquaintances. He took that act to Las Vegas, where he had a home but spent of most of his time in fleabag motels.

Burroughs said it was basically a sequel to "Leaving Las Vegas," with him as the main character, played by Nicolas Cage, who succeeds in a quest to drink himself to death.

Sean was asked last week who got to him -- family, well-meaning friends, a mentor?

"It was a combination of those things, but mostly it was my desire to get out of the conditions I was living in," Burroughs said. "One day, I took a hard look at myself in the mirror. I weighed at least 260. My hair was shaggy. My clothes were shabby. My eyes looked terrible.

"I said to myself, 'This isn't me. It can't be me.' "

In the summer of 2010, Burroughs left Las Vegas and moved back into his family home in Long Beach.

"I was so far out of shape it was ridiculous," he said. "But once I started, being outdoors, running, hiking, hitting, throwing -- activity became my new drug."

He turned 30 on Sept. 12, 2010. He had not had an at-bat in the big leagues since grounding out for Tampa Bay against the Yankees' Mariano Rivera on May 3, 2006.

When you're 30 and looking for another shot in baseball, you need connections. Kevin Towers was the general manager in San Diego when Burroughs played there. Towers was now in Arizona. Contact was made, and the Diamondbacks signed Burroughs on Nov. 19, 2010 -- to a nothing-guaranteed, it's-on-you contract.

"It didn't take that long for my swing to feel normal again," Burroughs said. "It's the genes, I guess. I got that from my father."

From a distance, you had to wonder if what wasn't in those genes -- his father's power -- was a large reason that Sean got lost on the path to what the Padres (and others) imagined would be big-league stardom.

He's big and strong like Jeff, but the righthanded Jeff drove the ball off and over fences, and the lefthanded Sean has a left-center stroke. He hit only 11 home runs in 1,516 at-bats for the Padres.

"In the minors, I would tweak some things ... try to get the ball in the air," Burroughs said. "But was not being a power hitter a frustration I carried around? Absolutely not."

Burroughs went to Class AAA Reno last spring and tore up the Pacific Coast League. He was called up by Arizona and was back in a big-league boxscore on May 19. He played in 73 games with 110 at-bats for the D-Backs, hitting .273. He became a free agent in mid-October.

The media suggestion has been that the Twins signed Burroughs because they wanted another third baseman to push Danny Valencia. Glynn sees Burroughs as having larger ambitions.

"From what I saw in Venezuela, Sean will be in Fort Myers to make something happen," Glynn said. "He's going there to make the big club."

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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