April 23: ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets some encouraging news following Burdi’s MRI. While the imaging did reveal strains in the right-hander’s biceps tendon and flexor mass, there’s no break or complete tear of anything in Burdi’s arm. He’ll be sidelined for an indefinite period of time, but it seems that he may have avoided the need for another surgery.
April 22: Pirates reliever Nick Burdi was removed from his appearance tonight after suffering an apparent arm injury. After throwing a pitch, he immediately fell to the mound and grabbed his biceps in obvious pain.
There’s no indication as of yet as to the seriousness of the injury, but the clubhouse reaction left no more cause for optimism than did the scene that unfolded on the field. As MLB.com’s Adam Berry reports (Twitter links), Burdi’s teammates described the situation as “heartbreaking” and “heart-wrenching” to watch.
For now, the organization has said only that the 26-year-old is dealing with pain in the elbow/biceps area. The club’s director of sports medicine, Todd Tomczyk, added that he and his staff are still “gathering information” to make a “definitive diagnosis.”
When he went down this evening, Burdi was in the midst of a brutal outing. But he had also shown immense promise in his first ten appearances of the season, compiling an outlandish 17:2 K/BB ratio in 8 1/3 innings with a 20.1% swinging-strike rate. With a 97+ mph fastball paired with a vicious slider, Burdi has the tools of a potential late-inning stalwart.
The talent, though, has never really been in question. Burdi was plucked in the second round of the 2014 draft; his brother, Zack Burdi, went in the late first round two years later. Both were expected to move quickly into MLB bullpens, but unfortunately instead shared overlapping Tommy John rehab stints.
When the Twins left (Nick) Burdi unprotected in the 2017 Rule 5 draft, the Pirates pounced. They shipped international money to the Phillies, who used their position with the third overall selection to make the selection. Burdi spent much of 2018 rehabbing before briefly ascending to the majors late last year.
The Bucs still haven’t had Burdi on the active roster long enough to secure his rights permanently. He’s at 56 days of active service, 34 shy of the 90-day minimum. If this injury proves to require a lengthy absence, the Pirates can simply shift Burdi to the 60-day injured list, though roster pressures would nevertheless mount in the offseason. In that case, Burdi will still have accrued 2 full seasons of MLB service by the end of the 2019 campaign, though hardly in the manner he’d have hoped.