Burdi likely not far from White Sox 'pen

No. 7 prospect has the stuff, just needs experience to get to bigs

Burdi likely not far from White Sox 'pen

INDIANAPOLIS -- The phrase "Zack Burdi, White Sox closer" probably stands a few years away from coming to fruition.

But at one point in the Downers Grove South High School career of Triple-A Charlotte's current standout reliever, it looked as if "Zack Burdi, Bears placekicker" had a more likely ring.

"I thought I was going to be a college kicker for football," said Burdi during a recent International League road trip to Victory Field. "Baseball wasn't really my thing.

"Then my junior year, I kind of had a little spike in my velo. I decided to run with it."

Burdi, who was a center fielder his freshman and sophomore high school seasons, clearly appears to have made the right career choice. He misses hitting, although he doesn't miss facing 90-plus mph fastballs, and now inflicts the pain he once endured on opposing hitters.

Entering Tuesday's contest, Burdi featured a 1.84 ERA over 13 games to go with five saves in six chances for the Knights. The hard-throwing right-hander has 24 strikeouts and five walks allowed in 14 2/3 innings.

His high-octane stuff would play now at the Major League level. But the White Sox are giving their No. 7 prospect time to refine his entire repertoire and approach.

"We also have to remember that literally 12 months ago he's pitching at Louisville," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn of Burdi, who was the 26th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. "There is an acclimation process that goes on to not only pitching more regularly but what you do on your side days and the travel and doing this full-time as a professional.

Burdi on going to Louisville

"Just like we said at the Draft, he has the kind of stuff to make you think he's going to come quickly. He has that makeup to make you think he can handle moving quickly.

"At the same time, we want him to get through some consistency and repetition," Hahn said. "We want him getting acclimated to the lifestyle before he comes up here."

Bobby Jenks and Craig Kimbrel serve as closing influences for Burdi, but it was his older brother, Nick, who had the first and ongoing impact. Nick, who pitches in the Twins system, was the closer at Louisville in 2014 before Zack took over in 2015.

As a high school kicker, Burdi once connected from 43 yards. It's a good memory for the now 22-year-old hurler. He figures to make more Major League memories soon but isn't thinking about a promotion.

"I've had things my entire life that I've been looking forward to, whether it was Team USA my sophomore year or the Draft my junior year," Burdi said. "If you just put it in the back of your head and you don't think about it, it's going to shake out the way it's supposed to.

"Whether that's the way you want, that's great. But if it doesn't, then you just gotta take a step back, take a deep breath and figure out why it didn't work out that way and get back to the drawing board.

"I'm not trying to let that consume me or take over," Burdi said. "It'd be cool if it happens, but if it doesn't, figure out why and fix it."

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.