When asked about goals for the upcoming season in spring training, most players answer with big statistics and winning awards.
Not Zack Burdi.
“Going into the season, the biggest goal is to start it healthy,” the 25-year-old reliever said. “If I have to start here (extended spring training) or start it at an affiliate, I’ll start wherever they want me to be. And after that, it’s performing.”
Burdi was an instant success as a 2016 first-rounder from Louisville. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound righthander went logged a 3.32 ERA with 51 strikeouts over 38 innings in four stops that ended at Triple-A Charlotte.
Yet in late July 2017, Burdi’s path to the big leagues was derailed by Tommy John surgery.
He missed the entire 2018 season before returning to the mound last season. While doing outfield work before a game for Double-A Birmingham in June, the injury bug bit again to end his season. He dislocated his right knee and had full medial patella-femoral ligament reconstruction surgery.
Now healthy, Burdi is in big league camp, but he’s not asking why the injuries happened to him.
“It was difficult,” Burdi said. “It was tough to swallow after feeling that success and not really having that success again for two or three years now. But it’s sports. It’s what we signed up for and we deal with it.”
Burdi will likely start the season back in the bullpen at Double-A, where he finished with a 6.41 ERA before his injury. Though it could take some time before he’s back to throwing his 100 mph fastball, he had looked good in the early weeks of spring training.
Moving forward, he’s focused on getting back into the flow of the game.
“That’s the plan,” Burdi said. “Obviously, there will be hiccups here and there like anybody else’s season. You just deal with it. That’s something I have to overcome. Obviously, I didn’t have a great summer last year, but I also had a huge offseason because of my injury.”