The best pitcher in MLB? How Corbin Burnes became an ace

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

PHOENIX -- In order to become the best pitcher in baseball, Corbin Burnes had to start making his bed.

The mundanity of the task is not lost on Burnes. Every fifth day, when Burnes steps on the pitcher's mound for the Milwaukee Brewers, he revels in the excitement -- the opportunity to throw the most effective cutter since Mariano Rivera, the challenge of filling the scoreboard with zeroes. All that excitement is the payoff of tedium: meticulously following a script for the preceding 120 hours, including five crisply tugged comforters.

In September 2019, when Burnes was toiling in Triple-A after his ERA in the majors ballooned to 9.00 and earned him a demotion, he connected with Brian Cain, a mental-performance coach who trained under the legendary Ken Ravizza. Burnes' stuff still crackled. His mechanics were fine, his nutrition properly tuned, his right arm healthy. For all the time Burnes spent on the physical, he had neglected what he calls the most important body part of all: his brain.

So Cain started with a simple assignment for Burnes: When you wake up, make your bed. Start the day with an easy win. It was meant to help Burnes get into a routine. Emphasize self-discipline. Pay attention to detail. All the things necessary to succeed on the mound could be replicated off it, so that when it was time to perform there, it's ingrained.

"It's always going about your business as if there's room to grow," Burnes said, "but also going out there and when you step on the rubber knowing you're the best in the league."