If any player in the White Sox organization was prepared to deal with all of the ups and downs of the 2020 season, it was third baseman Jake Burger.
Drafted 11th overall in 2017 after a prolific career at Missouri State, Burger missed the entire 2018 season with a twice-ruptured left Achilles tendon.
He sat out all of 2019 with a bruised left heel.
Finally healthy and ready to get back on the field this season, Burger had to make major adjustments when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March.
When baseball ramped back up in July, Burger was not invited to the alternate training site in nearby Schaumburg, Ill.
The 24-year-old slugger was able to play competitive baseball in his hometown of St. Louis. It was just 12 games in the CarShield Collegiate League, but Burger made the most of the opportunity.
“I think first and foremost, it was just feeling good, feeling my leg out there, feeling it out of the box, feeling it on defensive plays,” Burger said. “I don’t really put too much stock in the results, but I felt really good at the plate. I haven’t played in three years, so it’s obviously going to take some time to get the timing back.”
On Aug. 20, the White Sox added Burger to the 60-man player pool and he reported to Schaumburg. He got more at-bats and defensive reps at instructional league.
“Physically, he’s looked good,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “His lateral movement is good. He’s running the bases well. He’s obviously always been able to swing it . . .
“There’s no tentativeness. There’s no sort of sheepishness about, ‘Woe is me, or what else is going to happen? What’s next?’ He’s out there back being the Jake Burger that we all saw a few years back, before the injury run started.”
It’s been a difficult season for everyone, but the happy-go-lucky third baseman only sees the positives.
“You just kind of have the mindset of never give up,” Burger said. “I feel like I learned that.”
— Impressive rookie lefthander Garrett Crochet had to come out of Game 3 of the American League Wild Card Series versus the Athletics with an arm injury, but it doesn’t appear to be serious. “He is dealing with a flexor strain, essentially a muscle strain in his forearm,” Hahn said. “The UCL (elbow ligament) is clean, no issues there.”
— Rookie second baseman Nick Madrigal had left shoulder surgery after the White Sox were eliminated from the playoffs. The recovery time is five to six months.