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'Heart-wrenching': Bucs hope for best for Burdi

Reliever exits with right biceps/elbow injury after crumpling to mound in pain
@adamdberry
April 23, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates’ clubhouse was quieter than usual after Monday night’s 12-4 loss to the D-backs at PNC Park. The somber mood had nothing to do with the final score. Reliever Nick Burdi exited Monday’s game in the eighth inning, clutching his right biceps and elbow in obvious pain

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates’ clubhouse was quieter than usual after Monday night’s 12-4 loss to the D-backs at PNC Park. The somber mood had nothing to do with the final score.

Reliever Nick Burdi exited Monday’s game in the eighth inning, clutching his right biceps and elbow in obvious pain after releasing a 96.7-mph fastball to Arizona’s Jarrod Dyson. Burdi threw the pitch, bent over as he grabbed his throwing elbow with his left hand, fell to his knees, rolled over and collapsed in tears on the mound.

“That was heart-wrenching,” reliever Kyle Crick said. “To know what he went through the previous year to get back here, and having success in the big leagues and something like that happens, it’s tough.”

The Bucs announced that Burdi was dealing with right elbow/biceps pain and was placed on the 10-day injury list on Tuesday. Left-hander Steven Brault was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said after the game that the club was “gathering information to get the most definitive diagnosis as to what’s going on” with Burdi.

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported on Tuesday that a preliminary exam showed that nothing is fully torn or broken, but an MRI did reveal a strained biceps tendon and flexor mass. Passan also reported that a second opinion will be sought. The club has not commented.

“He’s in good spirits. He’s engaging. He’s talking to us. He’s not in a corner, crying,” starter Joe Musgrove said. “He’s ready to face whatever it is. He’s got the work ethic and the mentality to bounce back from something like this.”

It was a horribly sad scene for the Pirates, who are well aware of the work Burdi put in to make his way back from Tommy John surgery in May 2017. The Bucs selected Burdi, 26, in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft and aided him through the final stages of the grueling rehabilitation process last year.

“It’s really quiet right now around the whole clubhouse,” Musgrove said. “Everyone in here saw how hard he worked over the last year and a half, how committed he was to his program in Spring Training and being a professional and making sure he was getting the treatment and work he needed every day. And to see him come out and start the season the way he has, it’s heartbreaking to see him have to go through it.

“Everyone in here feels for him. It’s really hard to see it happen.”

Burdi’s impressive work ethic and early-season performance earned him a great deal of respect in the Pirates’ clubhouse. Musgrove said his teammates would try to convey that to Burdi in the coming days while reminding him that they’ll be by his side moving forward.

There was no indication that Burdi felt anything wrong before throwing his final pitch of the night. Catcher Elias Diaz even noted that his fastball clocked in at 96 mph. That only made the moment more devastating for Pittsburgh’s players and staff.

“I can’t explain it. It’s a moment when you think a lot,” Diaz said. “In his position, he may be thinking, ‘I lost my career. I don’t know if I’m going to throw the ball again.’ He was crying. That’s something that broke my heart.”

Burdi was also on the D-backs’ minds after the game. Arizona pitcher Zack Godley said he hopes it turns out to be a lesser injury, but he -- like everyone else -- was frightened by the way Burdi went down holding his arm.

“It’s awful. We’re competitors up until something like that happens, and then we’re all in the same family,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “You hate to see anything like that happen. The way he went down, you’re just hoping for the absolute best. For those of us that have been in the game for a long time, you know that there’s a certain degree of pain and tolerance that these guys can handle. But obviously, that was extremely unfortunate, and we’re hoping for the absolute best news for him and the Pirates.”

Burdi made his Major League debut last September. He earned a spot in Pittsburgh’s bullpen with an excellent Spring Training showing, displaying his potential with a clean bill of health, and he was off to a strong start this season. Burdi recorded 17 strikeouts while posting a 1.08 WHIP in his first 10 innings of the year.

Burdi entered Monday’s game with two outs in the seventh inning and gave up a home run to Christian Walker before retiring Wilmer Flores. He came back out to pitch the eighth and surrendered three straight singles before Dyson came to the plate.

“It takes the breath right out of you,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “You love to compete, you love to watch young men play, then that’s the hard part of it when something like that happens.”

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.