Top pitching prospect Burrows (UCL) out for year after surgery

April 30th, 2023

Coming into Spring Training, the Pirates’ starting pitching depth was at its best point in years. The Bucs featured nine pitchers who could realistically contribute at the Major League level in 2023. They’d already lost one for the season, and now, they’ve lost another. 

The Pirates announced earlier this week that right-hander Mike Burrows, Pittsburgh’s No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, underwent reconstructive right ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) surgery on April 26 performed by Dr. Keith Meister and will miss the remainder of the season. The team anticipates a return to action in 14-16 months.

“It hurts from a personal standpoint,” said Triple-A Indianapolis manager Miguel Perez. “Mike has grown so much in this game. He’s been a great teammate and a great human being, on and off the field.”

Burrows, selected in the 11th round of the 2018 MLB Draft, was removed from his start on April 8 after he felt something in his forearm. The right-hander received a second opinion on his injury, per director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk, and surgery was deemed to be the option.

The injury is, without question, a crushing development for the 23-year-old. Burrows, who represented the Pirates in last year’s Futures Game, was on the cusp of making the Majors, having been added to the 40-man roster this past offseason. He pitched well in a limited sample during Spring Training (three games, five innings, two earned runs), then threw five innings of one-run ball in his first start for Indianapolis. Now, he’ll have to delay his debut another season.

Despite the news, Burrows found ways to stay engaged.

After taking a couple days to digest the information, Burrows remained active and involved during games, finding ways to help his teammates without his right arm. 

“He went back in the clubhouse, and he was part of everything that we were doing on a daily basis,” Perez said. “His input during games was really good, too, with some of the pitchers.”

Burrows is the second starting pitcher this month to undergo season-ending surgery. Two weeks ago, right-hander underwent surgery to reconstruct his UCL.

The losses of Brubaker and Burrows unquestionably hurt, but even with those right-handers out for the season, the Pirates are not scrambling for starting depth. Along with the Pirates’ starting rotation, a group that has been among baseball’s best, right-handers and , the Pirates’ No. 4 and No. 8 prospects per MLB Pipeline, await in Indianapolis. Should an opening arise, Ortiz, with a handful of Major League starts under his belt, is the likelier of the two to get the nod at the moment.

Along with Burrows, Indianapolis placed infielder Nick Gonzales on the seven-day injured list on April 25 due to left shoulder discomfort. Double-A Altoona placed right-hander Jared Jones, the Pirates’ No. 11 prospect, on the seven-day injured list on April 23 (retroactive to April 21) due to lower back muscle spasms. 
Per Perez, Gonzales, who has posted a .772 OPS in 20 games for Indianapolis, was dealing with the injury for several weeks before the team elected to place him on the injured list.
“We had to make the decision and be cautious with what we were doing with him,” Perez said.

In a positive bit of injury news, No. 2 prospect Endy Rodríguez was activated off the seven-day injured list after dealing with a right forearm injury. The team plans to play Rodríguez, who has a .750 OPS in 15 games, as a designated hitter but anticipates a return to catching next week if his recovery goes well.

At Altoona’s media day several weeks back, expressed that he would be in Pittsburgh right now if the option was left to him. Based on how he’s began the season, Davis might get there sooner rather than later.
The Pirates' No. 3 prospect, Davis has been tearing up the Eastern League to begin the season. In 16 games, he is hitting .273/.452/.655 with six home runs and four steals. In his last four games entering Sunday, Davis has four home runs, six hits and three walks.
The most intriguing aspect of Davis’s start to the season has been his walk rate. Last season, Davis drew 21 walks in 255 plate appearances, or an 8.2% BB%. This season, Davis has 15 walks in 73 plate appearances, or a 20.5% BB%. Davis might not sustain that walk rate, but the uptick in free passes is worth monitoring as the season goes along.