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Sox prospect Burdi pleased with first season

Right-hander visits U.S. Cellular Field to throw out ceremonial pitch
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- The sum total of Zack Burdi's White Sox experience has covered 26 Minor League games and 38 innings after he was selected 26th overall in the 2016 Draft.

But the hard-throwing right-hander, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch before Monday's game against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field, already had a brush with franchise greatness back on July 23, 2009.

Full Game Coverage

CHICAGO -- The sum total of Zack Burdi's White Sox experience has covered 26 Minor League games and 38 innings after he was selected 26th overall in the 2016 Draft.

But the hard-throwing right-hander, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch before Monday's game against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field, already had a brush with franchise greatness back on July 23, 2009.

Full Game Coverage

"We were in those 320, 322 area suites, me and my travel team. One of the dads hooked us up and the next thing you know, you're watching [Mark] Buehrle's perfect game," Burdi said during a pregame media session. "It was crazy and I remember it like it was yesterday."

Burdi, the club's No. 4 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, emulated Buehrle growing up in Downers Grove, Ill., as a White Sox fan. On his best day, though, the consummate pitcher that was Buehrle didn't have the raw stuff possessed by Burdi.

After fanning 47 over 30 innings as the closer for Louisville, Burdi struck out 51 during stops with the Arizona Rookie League team, Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Burdi has a fastball that ranged from 97 to 103 mph this past summer, but throwing that high-octane fastball never becomes a focus of the polished reliever.

"Yeah, it's something to put in your back pocket," Burdi said. "You don't want to go out there and make it an ego thing. The next thing you know, you're trying to throw 105 and you're actually sitting at 95 because everything's tightening up and you're not doing your thing."

"Extremely good stuff, no doubt about it. Can't hide that," Minor League pitching coordinator Curt Hasler said. "He has three pitches that are extremely good. Not only the fastball we all talk about and hear about, but the breaking ball and the changeup. When he throws them in the zone, he's really, really good."

Factors such as lateral rhythm and making sure Burdi was flowing to the plate stood as one of the sought after improvements during this Minor League season. Burdi also talked about staying on top of the ball and creating angle.

There also was the natural adjustment to facing better hitters, which Burdi quickly discovered.

"In High-A, I threw a slider that I've been throwing all year and no one swung at it. It was a big like, 'Oh, no,'" a smiling Burdi said. "And then, I had to go back to my fastball and they were hitting them and I was like, 'Oh no.'

"Then the next thing you know, I had like three runs or something, and I was like, 'OK.' Well the stuff I was using a couple weeks ago isn't going to work here.' So that was a big one, having to work and sharpen up my break, sharpen up my velocity and sharpen up my angle. It was eye opening."

Although Burdi is working toward his degree at Louisville, the 21-year-old will have the chance to make the White Sox out of Spring Training in February.

"Of course I want to be here and I want to be with the guys. I didn't want my season to end," Burdi said. "But I'm happy with how the summer went. I'm happy with my first half year of pro ball."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox