Old friends Anderson, Burger reunite in Miami

February 25th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Christina De Nicola’s Marlins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

JUPITER, Fla. -- Six years ago, showed up to his first Spring Training eager to prove himself after being selected 11th overall by the White Sox in the 2017 MLB Draft.

Then adversity struck.

Burger tore his left Achilles tendon twice during a 10-week span, which sidelined him for three years. Within the first 24 hours of the injury, one player uplifted the then-21-year-old prospect with his support: .

“I think he saw somebody in pain, and I think he's got that kind of personality to pick people up when they're down, so I'm very thankful for that,” Burger said.

Added Anderson: “If you understand Jake's story, you know what he's been through. This game will whoop you up, some of the injuries that he's been through and so much downtime. I saw a guy that was searching for ... he needed that love and that support. And when I saw it, it's not hard to be good people.”

In the ensuing years, Anderson became one of Burger’s mentors in the cage and in life. While Anderson won an American League batting title and a Silver Slugger Award, Burger dealt with the physical and mental toll that comes with not being able to do what one loves.

“‘Just keep going, keep going,’” Anderson encouraged Burger. “It could have been easy to give up. ‘Just keep going. You never know what's on the other side.’ Now look at him. He's having so much success, and I'm so happy for him.”

Burger persevered to make his Major League debut on July 2, 2021, sharing the left side of the White Sox infield with Anderson. They played 107 games together until Burger was acquired by the Marlins ahead of last season’s Trade Deadline.

During that span, the White Sox reached the postseason once. Anderson hit the memorable walk-off homer in the 2021 MLB at Field of Dreams game. But '23 delivered Anderson his own dose of injury trouble. A nagging left knee sprain limited him to a .582 OPS, the lowest among all qualified MLB hitters.

Three months after the White Sox declined Anderson’s 2024 option, he inked a one-year deal with the Marlins and reunited with Burger. Anderson watched from afar as Burger broke out with 34 homers in his first full MLB season, playing a key role in Miami’s surprising postseason berth.

When it seemed likely that Anderson might sign with Miami, Burger reached out to say he was available to answer any questions. Burger believes Anderson will be a perfect fit with the club.

“I think a lot of teams wanted him, and I'm fortunate that we ended up getting him,” Burger said. “He's a competitor, and I think that's what's going to fit in this culture so well. All of us are pulling from the same side of the rope, and we're going out to battle for one another every single day. And that's who he is. That's how I've always known him. He wants to win, and he wants to compete, and he's going to do anything he can to help us win ballgames.”