The White Sox drafted Zack Burdi in the first round of the 2016 draft, at 26th overall. The Downer’s Grove, IL product was once dubbed the pale hose’s closer of the future, as he had a plus slider and the occasional 100 MPH heater as part of his arsenal coming out of the draft. It has been a long and bumpy road full of injury and bad luck for the fireballer out of Louisville throughout his minor league career.
In four minor league seasons, Burdi was 2-9 with a 4.31 ERA, 1.405 WHIP, 55 BBs and 139 Ks over 100.1 IPs. The righty made it all the way to AAA Charlotte in 2016, finishing with a 2.21 ERA in 9 appearances. Then in 2017, after 29 outings in AAA, he left a July game with a strained right triceps injury that ended his season. That injury ultimately led to the dreaded Tommy John surgery diagnosis costing him his 2018 season as well. In 2019 he made 17 appearances at Double-A Birmingham before his season was cut short again due to a strained patella tendon in his right knee. The kid clearly could not catch a break.
Zack’s brother, Nick, had just as much bad luck throughout his professional baseball career. Nick Burdi, who is two years older than his brother, was drafted in 2014 in the second round by the Minnesota Twins, also out of Louisville. In 2016, the older brother suffered a bone bruise in his right elbow, also resulting in Tommy John surgery and costing him his 2017 season. Then in 2019, Nick underwent thoracic outlet surgery that kept him sidelined throughout that season. Still just 27 years old and now part of the Pirates organization, Burdi pitched in only 3 games in 2020 before being shut down with a right elbow injury. It is pretty cut and dry that the Burdi brothers can’t escape the injury bug.
Coming into the 2020 season, before the original spring training was cut short, Zack Burdi had a shot at making the team as one of the fringe pen arms. Burdi made four appearances in the shortened spring and pitched four innings with 0 ER, 1 BB, and 4 Ks. It was a tragedy that the spring was cut short, ending any hopes for him to break camp with the team. When the MLB was cleared to resume for summer camp last month, Burdi was left off the major league roster and participated on the Schaumburg satellite squad.
Zach Burdi continued to work in Schaumburg waiting for an opportunity to be called up to the club. Then on August 8th, lefty setup man Aaron Bummer was placed on the IL with bicep soreness, and Burdi got the call to take his place. That day the he got into the ballgame in the 6th inning and the Sox got a glimpse at what they drafted, as he pumped the zone for upper 90s consistently, striking out two of the four batters faced. That upper 90s gas wasn’t there in the abbreviated spring training, as he just recently made a mechanical change to achieve that velocity after seeing a video on Twitter. The video must have been very informative, as it seemed to work for him quite well.
A minor league career mired by injury, Zack Burdi proved the doubters wrong and made it to the big leagues. All of the hard work and rehab paid off, and Burdi’s MLB dreams came true. Hopefully, even when Bummer returns from the injured list, the Sox can find a way to keep Zack on the roster. As long as health is on his side, he will be a key cog of the White Sox homegrown bullpen core for years to come.
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