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Notes: Burdi flashes triple-digit velo

Keller K's three in spring debut; Archer (neck) plays catch
@adamdberry
February 26, 2020

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Yes, Nick Burdi is healthy. On Wednesday afternoon, he provided triple-digit proof. Burdi’s electric fastball touched 100 mph and sat comfortably at 98-99 mph as he struck out two batters while working a scoreless fourth inning in the Pirates’ rain-shortened 6-3 loss to the Red Sox at

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Yes, Nick Burdi is healthy. On Wednesday afternoon, he provided triple-digit proof.

Burdi’s electric fastball touched 100 mph and sat comfortably at 98-99 mph as he struck out two batters while working a scoreless fourth inning in the Pirates’ rain-shortened 6-3 loss to the Red Sox at LECOM Park.

“I think we saw by evidence of how the ball came out of his hand today and the reaction to hitters that he’s trending toward health,” manager Derek Shelton said. “If he gets healthier, it’s going to be a little scary what that gun reads at.”

The 27-year-old right-hander could be a wild card for Pittsburgh’s bullpen, which struggled to find answers outside of the ninth inning last year. If Burdi remains healthy, his power fastball and sharp breaking ball could help him move into a more prominent role.

For now, though, the Pirates are more focused on keeping him on the mound than slotting him into a particular inning. Burdi has dealt with several bad breaks in his career, from Tommy John surgery in 2017 to last year’s diagnosis of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome. A second-round Draft pick in 2014, Burdi has made only 13 appearances in the Majors and 40 overall since the start of the 2016 season.

“Anybody that’s had the history that he’s had, health is the most important thing,” Shelton said. “That is probably the most important thing, us monitoring his health. It’s very obvious the level of his stuff. It’s just making sure every time he goes out, he’s feeling OK -- not only today, but he’s definitely one of those guys we’re checking in with tomorrow just to make sure he feels the way he should.”

Burdi’s rookie season was cut short on April 22, when he crumpled to the ground holding his right arm due to excruciating pain that turned out be caused by a nerve injury relating to the thoracic outlet syndrome, and he spent the rest of the year rehabbing after undergoing surgery two months later.

He’s hoping this year will be different.

“It’s been a frustrating couple of years, so for me, the biggest goal is to stay on the field for a whole season,” Burdi said recently. “That starts in the training room and the weight room, nutrition, then obviously going out there and performing. It’s one of those things that, at this point, kind of needs to get done. A full season needs to get under my belt.”

Game report
• Gregory Polanco played six innings in right field, his first game action on defense since he was shut down for the season last July due to lingering issues with his surgically repaired left shoulder. Polanco didn’t get many chances in the field, but he went 1-for-3 with a line-drive single to right and made a hard slide into second base to break up a potential double play.

“That really stood out. I think we were all a little cautious the first time he was going to take that first slide,” Shelton said. “He had to move in the outfield. Just playing, being out there is going to be the most important thing.”

• Top prospect Mitch Keller allowed two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out three in 1 2/3 innings. Keller threw 32 pitches, including 21 strikes, and felt his performance was actually better than his scoreless spring debut.

Boston prospect Jarren Duran hit a two-run homer off Keller in the second inning, launching a low fastball over the left-field fence with the wind behind it. Otherwise, Keller was pleased with his mix of high four-seam fastballs and swing-and-miss curveballs.

• Before the game, Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski took out the lineup card in place of Shelton. The manager said the gesture was “basically thanking him for coming out” to visit the Pirates during Spring Training.

“Anytime you get a guy that’s hit probably the greatest homer in World Series history to take a lineup card out … anytime we can get Maz around, it’s great,” Shelton said.

Trainer’s room
• Right-hander Chris Archer (neck tightness) played catch Wednesday after taking two days off from throwing, director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. Archer, who was scratched from his scheduled start Monday, will play catch for a few more days before throwing a bullpen session.

• Infielder Erik González (left foot surgery in November) has not yet progressed to full-intensity baserunning drills, Tomczyk said, but could do so this weekend or early next week. After González takes part in those drills, he could be cleared for game activity.

González has been healthy enough to hit and play defense, but Tomczyk explained that the infielder’s strength and range of motion weren’t 100 percent back at the start of Spring Training camp. That deficiency created a slight limp that first-base coach Tarrik Brock noticed while watching video of González running the bases at full speed.

• Right-hander Jameson Taillon, who is out for the season following his second Tommy John surgery, continues to play catch on flat ground from 90 feet. Tomczyk said the Pirates’ staff is encouraged with Taillon’s progress so far.

Up next
The Pirates will make the short trip to Sarasota on Thursday afternoon to play the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Veteran right-hander Hector Noesí, who signed a Minor League deal with the Bucs in December, will make the start for Pittsburgh against Baltimore lefty Tommy Milone.

Also scheduled to pitch for the Pirates are fifth-starter candidate Steven Brault, closer Keone Kela and relievers Geoff Hartlieb, Chris Stratton, Yacksel Ríos and Cody Ponce. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. The audio broadcast will be available on MLB.com.

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