GLENDALE, Ariz. – Zack Burdi doesn’t mind the spotlight – he’s built and wired to be a closer or late-inning high leverage pitcher — but for a first-round draft pick, it seems like the beam doesn’t shine as brightly on him as most first-round draft picks.
For one thing, catcher Zack Collins was picked 10th by the White Sox, 16 spots in front of Burdi, a 100-mph right-hander from Downers Grove. For another, an influx of young pitchers at camp like Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech, who came into the organization in the trades for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, has lumped Burdi into a pack of promising pitchers in camp. Carson Fulmer, drafted No. 8 overall in 2015, is also there.
The Sox won’t rush any of them, including Burdi, to the major leagues, even after Burdi hop-scotched from Class A Winston-Salem to AA Birmingham to AAA Charlotte in one season after being selected in the first round (26th overall) in the 2016 draft.
“I’m not too worried about where I start off or end up,’’ Burdi said. “It’s a process. You have to just keep growing day by day and not let all the outside noise affect you. It’s easy to let that happen when there is so much hype around the young group here. All the guys have done a good job blocking it out and going about their business.’’
Burdi has been a worker bee in his first major league camp, leading the Cactus League with nine appearances. He is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Tuesday and make his 10th appearance Thursday against the Reds. He has pitched well, with three earned runs allowed on four hits over 10 innings (2.70 ERA) with 12 strikeouts and four walks.
Burdi not only throws hard but, according to Baseball American, possesses the best slider in the organization. He is BA’s sixth-ranked Sox prospect behind Yoan Moncada, Giolito, Lopez, Collins and Kopech.
“I’ve been happy with [spring training results], yeah,’’ Burdi said. “I’m excited with where my mechanics are at. Every day, just bottle it up and keep repeating what I’ve been focused on and preaching to myself. I’m excited.’’
The focus is on repeating his delivery and gaining consistency with his command.
“When I can repeat and stick to my mechanics everything kind of flows together,’’ he said. “And being comfortable in high profile situations like when we’re playing the Cubs and there are thousands of people standing and a lot of them don’t like me.’’
After Burdi struck out 24 batters in 16 innings at Birmingham (3.94 ERA) and 22 in 16 innings at Charlotte (2.25) last season, a September call-up seemed possible. But the Sox made him wait for his debut, which almost certainly will happen this season but likely not straight out of camp.
“I’m confident where I’m at and excited to see where the season is going to take me,’’ Burdi said. “If it’s AAA, that’s awesome and if it’s the big league club, same thing, do my best and just keep learning and growing.’’