Stories like that which Nick Burdi is in the middle of writing happen in baseball all the time, sure most of them probably don’t have the ability to throw a baseball over 100MPH but injuries derail careers before they get started more often than any of us really know.
On Sunday news broke from Adam Berry that Nick Burdi had been re-evaluated and it had been determined that he would need to undergo a second Tommy John procedure.
For this talented young man, that’s two TJ’s and TOS in his short career, and how it shakes out for him moving forward is unknown. Coming back from two procedures like this is a very lightly travelled path and when you pile on the TOS he faces extremely long odds, but considering the odds he’s already overcome I can’t rule out that he’ll fight his way through this too.
Selfishly, we can look at what this does to the Pirates bullpen, and whether it’s what’s most important right now or not, it’s still part of the story. This takes Blake Cederlind out of the “probably” category and into the “damn near lock” category to make the team, and potentially opens a door for Nick Mears to impress in Spring Training.
For Burdi this must be a heartbreaking setback. First the Pirates DFA’d Burdi off the 40-man and announced they expected him to miss 16 to 18 months, far longer than most recovery timeline’s tend to be for TJ. Probably due to his lengthy history of injury more so than a commentary on the severity.
In his time here in Pittsburgh he has only managed to pitch 12.1 innings and never fulfilled his Rule 5 status, and I’ll be honest, it’s unclear to me if this means they have to offer him back to the Twins or he just get’s to stay with the Pirates organization but no matter how you look at it, so ends the longest Rule 5 period I’ve ever witnessed.
Talent doesn’t always guarantee success, a lesson many players learn without ever showing what they can do in MLB, even if only a little over 12 innings. Think of the impression he made in that time though. Now imagine this happens to a second round pick who never makes it past Altoona, do you even hear about it? Hell, do I?
As much as we’ve learned about pitching mechanics and their effect on the human body, we may never know why some guys succumb to the rigors of pitching and others can seemingly jump up from a cold bench and hit 95 without a twinge.
Many will call Burdi fragile, and physically they might be correct, but the mental strength it takes to just keep coming back makes him one of the strongest people I’ve ever covered. It also might not be smart to continue. There came a point with Francisco Cervelli where I wanted the Pirates to consider saving him from himself as concussions piled up, while arm injury doesn’t have the same cumulative, later in life effect, at some point enough is enough.
What more can you say at the end of the day but get well kid? Maybe just telling him on social media he’s made of glass is something we could find a way to avoid. Nick Burdi may never throw another MLB pitch for the Pirates, he may never throw another for anyone, but man he sure was impressive for those 12 innings. If he comes back after all of this, I look forward to holding my breath with everyone else every time he pitches, both because he’ll probably impress and because until he gets through a stretch of time, we’ll never know when the shoe is about to drop.