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Tony Vitello reacts to the departure of Chase Burns

Vitello offered his thoughts.

Tennessee v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The weekend chatter turned out to be true, but in reality, this had been coming for months. Tony Vitello confirmed the news on Tuesday morning that Chase Burns intends to enter the transfer portal, coming directly after a lights out run through the NCAA Tournament.

Burns was demoted to the bullpen after struggling in the rotation in the first half of the year. Vitello made the move in the middle of the conference slate, pushing Andrew Lindsey into the Friday night slot. The decision seemed to pay dividends for Tennessee, helping the Volunteers to turn things around and get hot at the right time.

The decision also seemed to get the wheels in motion of Burns’ decision to exit Knoxville.

“It’s pretty straight forward,” Vitello said on The Sports Animal on Tuesday. “We’ve kind of known that he would be gone for awhile.

“This season went in a lot of different ways and as coaches we have to do what we think is best for the whole group and find a way to try and win games. In the end, I think that worked out fairly well. But for his case, he’s going to take his efforts somewhere else. It’s been a deal where he’s done more than a lot for the program. Not just last year, and of course this year, too.”

At the time of his move to the bullpen, Burns had an ERA north of six on the year as a whole. His SEC-only numbers were even worse, so it’s hard to fault Vitello for making the decision that he did.

Burns was coming off a stellar freshman season where he went 8-2 and posted a 2.91 ERA. In the NCAA Tournament, we saw the 2022 version of Chase Burns reappear. His stuff was absolutely electric, whether it be for a couple of innings or for the majority of the game. Burns was able to come in and give Tennessee several innings of work against both Clemson and Stanford, allowing the Volunteers to come back and win both key matchups in the postseason.

“The guys are well looked after as people and not just players, so I feel like our kids are treated right,” Vitello continued. “There’s always going to be circumstances where a guy feels like maybe he’s being wronged or cheated. Maybe innings, at-bats or role on the team.”

It’s a frustrating situation, without a doubt. Burns is an in-state kid from the Nashville area that just found national fame with a few truly special performances that quite literally saved Tennessee’s season. After struggling early in the season, Burns snapped right back into form. His passion on the mound was contagious, making him an obvious fan favorite.

And now, just days removed from Tennessee’s exit from the College World Series, he’s gone. Even more curious? Burns has an obvious path back to Tennessee’s rotation, with both Chase Dollander and Andrew Lindsey set to move on.

In the end, both sides will be fine. Chase Burns will land with a high profile program and slide immediately into a rotation. Tennessee and Frank Anderson will keep developing studs on the mound. But it didn’t have to be like this. It feels like there’s more to this story — maybe we’ll figure that out down the road. Now, the race for Burns is on in the portal. I’m fascinated to see where he lands, with rumors already swirling all over the place.

Tennessee saw this side of the portal on Tuesday morning, then saw the other side on Tuesday night as they landed stud catcher Cannon Peebles from NC State, who is coming off of his freshman year. Welcome to modern day college athletics, where things are never going to be boring.