Zack Burdi

More tough injury news for former first-round picks Jake Burger and Zack Burdi

More tough injury news for former first-round picks Jake Burger and Zack Burdi

The White Sox spent first-round picks on Zack Burdi and Jake Burger in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Both guys have been dogged by injuries, and the news didn't get any better Friday.

Burdi won't pitch for the rest of the season, his recovery from Tommy John surgery yielding now to a torn tendon in his knee. Burger, meanwhile, is still dealing with a setback in his recovery from a pair of Achilles tears in 2018, a bruised heel on the same foot that has limited him to the point where he's not participating in baseball activities. Burger might not be back on the field until the fall, general manager Rick Hahn said.

It's a pair of incredibly tough blows for two players who carry first-round expectations of being difference-makers in the franchise's ongoing rebuilding process. Burdi was eyed by many fans and onlookers as the team's closer of the future. The power-hitting Burger was hoped to be a middle-of-the-order bat for the next contending White Sox team. Obviously neither player can be written off at this point, but even more injury woes and even more missed developmental time throws what kind of impact they'll have, and when, into question.

After 27 appearances with Triple-A Charlotte in 2017, Burdi was shut down in June and had Tommy John surgery, which wiped out all but a handful of rookie league innings in 2018. He didn't pitch much during the Arizona Fall League before being shut down, though Hahn said at the time that was nothing to worry about. This season, he split time with Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, and the numbers were not good: a 6.75 ERA in 22.2 innings of work. Now he won't pitch again until 2020.

"Zack Burdi, while doing a pregame drill in Birmingham a few weeks ago, actually within the last 10 days, felt kind of a change in his knee," Hahn said of the Downers Grove native's latest injury. "After an examination it was disclosed that he has a torn ligament by his patella, which needs to be repaired. That will be sometime in early July, and Zack will be out for the remainder of the season."

Burger was the No. 11 pick of the 2017 draft and hasn't played in many games since joining the White Sox organization. He slashed .271/.335/.409 with four homers in 49 games with Class A Kannapolis. In spring 2018, he tore his Achilles, then tore the same Achilles not long after, extending his recovery time. And though there was optimism surrounding his return this season, his bruised heel has been enough of a setback to keep him out of action and away from baseball activities at the moment. He likely won't appear with a full-season affiliate in 2019.

"Jake Burger is also progressing, albeit slowly, from his bruised left heel, the same leg that had the Achilles issue," Hahn said. "He is doing water-agility drills right now but has yet to resume baseball activity on the field. Don't have a timeline on Jake's return to action, but hopefully he's able to join the Arizona club before that season ends and if not, we'll see Jake hopefully fully healthy in instructionals (which typically take place after the end of the minor league regular season)."

There have been a bunch of positives here in 2019 that have made it seem like the White Sox contention window could open as soon as the 2020 season, and even with Friday's injury news, that still seems realistic. But for these two first-round picks, specifically, it's becoming increasingly difficult to project out what roles they'll play as that window begins to open. That was the case already, and both players dealing with new injuries clouds that picture even more.

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Prospects Zack Burdi, Luis Basabe to begin rehab stints in White Sox minors

Prospects Zack Burdi, Luis Basabe to begin rehab stints in White Sox minors

Tommy John surgeries have knocked out two top White Sox pitching prospects for 2019 (Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning), but one pitching prospect is set to make a notable step in his return from the surgery.

Zack Burdi will join Single-A Kannapolis on a rehab stint on Monday. Burdi had Tommy John surgery in July of 2017. In his first game action since the surgery, he made seven appearances last August with the Arizona League White Sox (rookie level). The Downers Grove native made five more appearances in the Arizona Fall League before being pulled from the league due to “general fatigue.” He talked about his recovery process on an episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

In spring training, Burdi was not invited to major league camp and he wasn’t on a minor league roster when the season began. With this news, he is set to hit another milestone in his return. If all goes well in Kannapolis, it is expected that Burdi will join Triple-A Charlotte, where he was in 2017 when he got hurt.

If Burdi can recapture his stuff, which profiled him as a back end of the bullpen pitcher, he could even join the White Sox sometime in 2019. He has to show he is healthy and back to his old self first though. The 24-year-old was taken with the 26th pick in the 2016 draft and is the No. 16 prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline.

Another prospect will be joining Burdi in Kannapolis on a rehab assignment. Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, No. 7 prospect in the system, will also join the Intimidators on Monday. Basabe broke the hamate bone in his left hand during batting practice in spring training. It was initially estimated that he would return in late May, so Basabe appears to be ahead of schedule. The 22-year-old spent the second half of 2019 with Double-A Birmingham and is expected to return there after rehabbing with Kannapolis.

Elsewhere on the White Sox prospect injury watch, Luis Robert left a game on Saturday with soreness in his left hand and is reportedly day-to-day. He was hit by a pitch in the first game of a doubleheader for Single-A Winston-Salem. He made one at-bat in the second game, a leadoff groundout, and then was taken out of the game. He did not play on Sunday.

Robert endured an injury-plagued 2018. He was limited to 50 games, but has been on fire early in 2019. Robert leads the Carolina League in batting average (.475), home runs (6), hits (28), runs (16), on-base percentage (.530) and slugging percentage (.915) and is tied for the league lead in RBIs (18) and stolen bases (7).

 

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Burdi talks about coming back from Tommy John surgery

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Burdi talks about coming back from Tommy John surgery

The White Sox former first round pick speaks with Chuck Garfien in Arizona about growing up a White Sox fan and meeting Frank Thomas (2:35), what it was like suffering his UCL tear in front of friends and family back in Louisville where he played in college (5:00), the challenges of coming back from Tommy John surgery (9:10), how he's feeling today (10:50), why he doesn't look forward in his career anymore and lives in the present (14:20), speaking with Michael Kopech about Tommy John recovery (15:30) his kicking career at Downers Grove High School and the biggest moment of his high school career (17:00).

Listen below or click to listen here.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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