By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Someone may soon be challenging Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman for the title of “velocity king” in Chicago.
The White Sox have right-hander Zack Burdi coming on strong for 2017 and beyond. A 21-year-old Downers Grove native who was a first-round pick of the White Sox in June, Burdi blitzed his way through four different levels in the minor leagues this summer, striking out 51 batters in 38 innings.
“I have been up and down with it,” Burdi said of his velocity. “It has been between 97 mph to 102, 103. It is weird when you look at it, because Chapman is such a bigger dude. It is cool when you watch him and see the numbers he puts up. It is cool to think, ‘Wow, that is what I look like.'”
A Louisville product, Burdi was the selected by the White Sox at No. 26 overall with their second pick of the first round. He registered a 3.32 ERA in the minors, finishing the season at Triple-A. He frequently sat around 100 mph on the radar gun.
He visited U.S. Cellular Field on Monday as the White Sox hosted the Indians.
“My first outing they were hitting my breaking ball and hitting my fastball,” Burdi said of his professional debut. “My first reaction was, ‘Oh no.’ I had to adjust and sharpen up my stuff right away. The hitters in pro ball are a lot better.”
Because Burdi threw a full schedule as the minor league and college pitcher in 2016, the organization decided to shut him down rather than start his major league free-agent clock now with a September call-up. A lifelong White Sox fan,the engaging Burdi was in the stands with his travel team on July 27, 2009 when Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game against Tampa Bay.
“Buehrle was the guy I loved to watch pitch,” Burdi said. “It was great being here the day he threw the perfect game. It was crazy, and I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Vying for a spot on the 2017 White Sox should be an attainable goal for Burdi.
“I of course would like to be pitching here now,” Burdi said. “I am happy with how the summer went. I am pleased with my first year of pro ball. Getting to meet the guys and play with some of them that have already been here has been a great experience. Leaning on them and getting to pick the brains of guys was great.”
Asked if the closer’s role is his personal choice of destination, Burdi didn’t hesitate.
“Yes, that is the job I know,” Burdi said. “At the same time, I am going to do what they tell me to do.
“My saying is just, ‘Go out there, do your job and do it well.'”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.