White Sox

Zack Burdi is pitching off a mound again

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USA TODAY

Zack Burdi is pitching off a mound again

Zack Burdi was thought of as a college pitcher who could make the major leagues quickly after he was drafted in 2016.

The White Sox drafted him 26th overall that year and it appeared his quick rise through the minors was going to come true. Burdi reached Triple-A Charlotte by the end of 2016 and had a 2.25 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 16 innings with the Knights.

However, he had Tommy John surgery in July and hasn't pitched in more than 11 months. The 23-year-old from Downers Grove is nearing his return and had video proof.

That's Burdi throwing off a mound, which means a rehab stint might not be far behind. Burdi may not getting into the full swing of things before the minor league season ends in early September, but this is a good sign for him being ready to go for spring training in 2019.

Before going on the disabled list, Burdi had a 4.05 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 17 walks in 33 1/3 innings with the Knights in 2017.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.

Inside the play that has White Sox fans salivating over a fully healthy Luis Robert

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AP

Inside the play that has White Sox fans salivating over a fully healthy Luis Robert

It was a play that lasted only 10 seconds during a recent game in the Arizona Fall League, but those 10 seconds gave the White Sox another glimpse into what Luis Robert can do on a baseball field.

And it’s electric.

It all started with Robert hitting a routine ground ball to the left side of the infield. The third baseman gobbled up the baseball and took his time throwing to first. Bad idea. Robert was racing down the line at warp speed and beat it out.

Moments later, Robert stole second base on a nifty head-first slide despite a perfect throw by the catcher. Robert made it look effortless.

Then came the moment that should have White Sox fans salivating.

A ball was caught in deep left-center field, which could easily get Robert to third, but he wanted more.

“I saw that the fly ball was hit kind of deep,” Robert explained through a translator, teammate Laz Rivera. “I was just thinking about scoring straight from second, but coach (Dave) Anderson stopped me at third. As the shortstop was walking in, I felt like he got overconfident and I took advantage of it.”

Robert dashed for home. The throw arrived. Robert slid to his right, reached out his left hand to touch home plate. He safely avoided the tag, scoring from second base on a sacrifice fly.

I asked him: Can you do this routinely without stopping at third?

“It depends on how deep the fly ball is and how good the center fielder hits the cutoff man,”  Robert answered.

How many times have you done it?

“I’ve never done it,” he said. “But I’m confident I can do it.”

Even though he’s been on everyone’s radar since the White Sox signed him as a 21-year-old Cuban phenom in 2017, the Arizona Fall League felt like Robert's official coming out party. Thumb injuries limited him to only 45 games in 2018 with Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem. Fully healthy now, Robert proved to be one of the best players in the AFL, facing some of the best pitching prospects in the minor leagues.

He finished with a slash line of .324/.367/.432 with two home runs, 10 RBIs and five stolen bases in 18 games. Thanks to a 14-game hitting streak, he also won an AFL Player of the Week Award.

Since the White Sox signed the 6-foot-3 outfielder, he’s had trouble staying healthy with two thumb injuries, a knee injury and a few aches and pains along the way. It’s left some to question whether Robert will be able to stay healthy.

He says not to worry. There’s been a reason for his ailments.

“I felt like I was getting injured last year because I had a year and a half without playing and now I feel like I’m ready to go,” said Robert, who was unable to play games after he defected from Cuba in 2016 until he joined the Dominican Summer League White Sox toward the end of the 2017 season.

“Every injury is a learning experience,” he said. “Everything I’m doing right now is helping my body become better."

Robert mentioned two big plans for him during the offseason. The first is working to improve his swing.

“I should be practicing hitting curveballs more often, but I feel like I’m in a good place right now to hit them. I’m working on more counts, I’m seeing more pitches and waiting for my pitch,” Robert said.

He’s also moving to Tampa, Florida, where he wants to get a house for him and his family, who are currently living in the Dominican Republic.

“So we can be together,” Robert said.

It’s not a coincidence that Robert has chosen to live in Tampa since that’s also the winter home for fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada, who's been a mentor to Robert since the White Sox signed him. Moncada is in Glendale this month getting in some extra training at Camelback Ranch in preparation for next season.

“He’s always taking care of me,” Robert said of Moncada. “He’s always giving me advice on what I should or shouldn’t be doing on the baseball field and off the baseball field.”

After watching Robert on the baseball field in the Fall League, spring training cannot come soon enough.