Zack Burdi

White Sox latest spring cuts send better known prospects to minor league squads

White Sox latest spring cuts send better known prospects to minor league squads

The White Sox made their second, and to this point, most meaningful round of spring cuts Wednesday morning, sending many of their better known prospects to minor league affiliates.

The team sent catcher Seby Zavala to Triple-A Charlotte. Pitchers Zack Burdi and Bernardo Flores, along with outfielders Micker Adolfo, Luis Basabe and Blake Rutherford, went to Double-A Birmingham. And pitchers Tayron Guerrero, Bryan Mitchell, Caleb Frare, Kodi Medeiros and Matt Tomshaw were sent to minor league camp.

Of that list, perhaps the most notable when it comes to the 2020 big league team is Burdi, the 2016 first-rounder who after ascending all the way to Triple-A Charlotte in 2017 had Tommy John surgery and faced other injuries during his recovery. He returned to the mound last season, pitching 17 times at Birmingham with poor results, a 6.41 ERA.

Burdi fared well in his brief spring stint, striking out four batters and giving up just a pair of base runners in four one-inning outings. Considering how many bullpen pitchers a team goes through in a season, it's hardly out of the question that if he does well in the minor leagues he could make an appearance at the major league level this season. But for now, he's heading back to Birmingham.

So, too, are the three outfielders, who all played at Birmingham last season. Adolfo is coming off his own injury-shortened campaign, playing just 23 games at the Double-A level. Basabe played 69 games there in 2019, and Rutherford was there the entire season, logging 118 games with the Barons. None could be said to be coming off excellent campaigns, so getting them to that point before bringing them up to Triple-A goes along with the patient approach the White Sox have taken with their prospects during the rebuilding process.

Zavala heading to Charlotte is no surprise. We're still awaiting the fate of two other catchers, though: Zack Collins, who expressed little optimism that he will end up making the big league roster, and Yermin Mercedes, who's hit four homers this spring and has expressed plenty of confidence that he will be the White Sox 26th man.

Flores might not be long for Birmingham after he made 15 starts there last season and recorded a 3.33 ERA. Guerrero, picked up on waivers from the Miami Marlins this offseason, is a flamethrower who figured to at least be in the mix for a spot in the big league bullpen. As mentioned with Burdi, it wouldn't be a shock to see him as one of the pitchers used at the big league level in some capacity this season. Same goes for Tomshaw, who had a 2.90 ERA pitching with both Birmingham and Charlotte last season.

The White Sox stand at 49 players in big league camp after these moves. They need to get down to 26 by Opening Day.

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Zack Burdi's harsh self-assessment has led to a new mentality: 'You're just not that good'

Zack Burdi's harsh self-assessment has led to a new mentality: 'You're just not that good'

Zack Burdi’s last 32 months have been trying, to say the least.

He had Tommy John surgery in July of 2017, which kept him out of action for 13 months. In 2019, he went down with a knee injury in June that cost him the rest of the season.

The 25-year-old reliever was a first-round pick in 2016 and made it all the way to Triple-A the summer after he was drafted. The injuries have limited his ability to take the next step.

Now back in action in spring training, Burdi can reflect on a difficult period. Burdi told Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast that he made a somewhat harsh self-assessment.

“In ‘17 before I got hurt, I had a 4-something [ERA], walking a ton of dudes, so you could argue I probably shouldn’t have been there then,” Burdi said on the podcast. “Obviously I shouldn’t be there in ‘18 (and) ‘19, especially in ‘19. In ‘19 I didn’t do well. So it wasn’t a feeling of I should be there, but it was definitely a feeling of how am I going to get there and I want to be there."

 

In Triple-A in 2017, Burdi had a 4.05 ERA with an impressive 51 strikeouts and a less impressive 17 walks in 33.1 innings. Last year, he had a 6.75 ERA between Class A Kannapolis and Double-A Birmingham in 22.2 innings.

Coming off Tommy John surgery isn’t easy, so his struggles last year aren’t a big surprise, but Burdi still expected more of himself.

“I had a big assessment this offseason that it was just more of a realization,” Burdi said. “I had the same realization at Louisville. You’re just not that good. You have a lot of room to improve and that’s a big step. Just like anything else in life, you got to admit it to yourself before you can make a change. I told myself I just wasn’t good, I hadn’t been good for a while and it was time for an adjustment.”

Burdi embarked on an exhaustive search through his past successes to find what was working for him and what he could learn from that.

“I looked back at moments when I was good for a long stretch,” Burdi said. “I go back to my sophomore year, I go back to my junior year and then I go back to that summer (in 2016). What’d I do well and why’d I do it? So, I go through the journals, I go through my notes, I go through everything on my phone that I’ve ever written down and you start nitpicking and finding these little things that you did and you felt and these keys that you’re using.”

Burdi said he had to scrap almost all of it, but he did find stuff he liked.

Burdi is a long-shot to make the White Sox bullpen out of spring training, but he is off to a good start in the Cactus League. In four innings, he hasn’t given up a run with four strikeouts against one walk and one hit.

“It’s definitely been a long eight months, but I think when it’s all said and done, whenever that is, it will definitely be looked upon as something that set that foundation for the rest of my career,” Burdi said. “You can argue the last two and a half years have done that.”

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White Sox Talk Podcast: The new and improved Zack Burdi

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NBC Sports Chicago

White Sox Talk Podcast: The new and improved Zack Burdi

White Sox pitcher Zack Burdi has been through a lot since being the 26th overall pick in 2016 and he is ready to come back and perform. Host Chuck Garfien is joined by Zack as they discuss his career so far, the injuries that have held him back, and his brutally honest self-assessment of his play.

(2:07) - Excited about his improvement

(5:06) - Dealing with multiple injuries

(10:20) - I didn't belong in the majors early on

(11:45) - How to make sure he improved

(15:20) - Chuck's wrap up

Listen in the embedded player below. 

 

White Sox Talk Podcast

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