In many ways, Nick Burdi’s first appearance with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night meant more to the reliever than his big-league debut.
“This one was definitely earned,” a smiling Burdi said before the Cubs’ 7-6 loss in the series finale Wednesday night against the Houston Astros.
When Burdi reached the majors in 2018 with the Pittsburgh Pirates — appearing in two games as a September call-up — the Downers Grove South alumnus knew the promotion was coming, though the timing was a little uncertain.
Burdi, a second-round pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2014 out of Louisville, had been picked in the Rule 5 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies in December 2017 and traded to the Pirates. He missed most of 2018 recovering from his first Tommy John surgery but returned before the season ended.
“This one to me was a lot more personal,” Burdi said of Tuesday’s outing, “and it felt like this one was my real debut, if that makes sense.”
He pitched the seventh inning of a 7-3 loss to the Astros, marking his first big-league appearance since Aug. 3, 2020. He allowed two hits and two runs, walked one and struck out one.
Since his last big-league outing, Burdi, 30, missed the 2021 season after his second Tommy John surgery and then was sidelined in 2022 when he needed to have built-up scar tissue surgically removed.
The Cubs selected Burdi in the second round of the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December. His performance at Triple-A Iowa earned him a promotion when the bullpen needed reinforcement because of heavy usage and a right forearm strain for Brad Boxberger, who will return to Chicago for further evaluation.
“A lot of it was just getting ahead, really working the four-seam (fastball) and slider and just kind of attacking guys,” Burdi said. “Just getting sharper in the zone is going to be a big difference here. But just continue to attack guys and do what I did in Iowa, and that’s playing to my strength.”
When Burdi was younger, he would throw as hard as he could to try to land a strike. He has learned to build up the velocity in an outing, something he harnessed in Tuesday’s appearance.
He wants to get a 94-95 mph pitch over for a strike, and once he feels comfortable, he ramps up around triple digits. It plays into his focus of getting ahead in the count.
“It‘s just having that maturity of being like, hey, I need to get in the zone, and then once we’re in the zone, we can bring our best stuff,” Burdi said. “Attacking guys, we’ve seen really good results from it. These guys are really good up here, facing the World Series defending champions. So you start to get a little sharper in the zone and then really start to dominate.”
Burdi is among a handful of relievers who could have an impact on the Cubs bullpen over the course of the season. Right-handers Cam Sanders, Tyler Duffey, Riley Thompson, Manny Rodríguez and Vinny Nittoli and left-hander Bailey Horn are part of the relief depth in Iowa.
“You have another big-league bullpen sitting down there,” Burdi said. “I was fortunate enough to get the call, but those guys are coming.”
Source: Berkshire mont