BOZICH | Louisville's Burdi Has The Real Million Dollar Arm - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville's Burdi Has The Real Million Dollar Arm

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Louisville relief pitcher Nick Burdi has 54 strikeouts in 31 innings. Louisville relief pitcher Nick Burdi has 54 strikeouts in 31 innings.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – On Friday night Nick Burdi will try to ensure the University of Louisville baseball team wins more than the share of the American Athletic Conference title the Cardinals have already clinched.

Next month Burdi will be at work as Louisville scrambles to make another College Baseball World Series.

And in August Nick Burdi will be working out of the Los Angeles Angels' bullpen in a major-league pennant race.

OK, that’s a slight fast track jump in the story line, even faster than Burdi's 101 mph fastball.

But it’s not a complete exaggeration, not if you studied the mock draft (yes, baseball has them, too) posted by ESPN.com insider Keith Law Thursday.

"We’ve heard that," U of L coach Dan McDonnell said.

The Angels draft 15th. Law actually has Los Angeles selecting Kyle Schwarber, the Indiana University catcher who swatted that mammoth home run at Patterson Stadium Tuesday.

Read the fine print. After Law mentions two other players the Angels are considering, he closes with this intriguing line -- the Angels could possibly select "Nick Burdi on a below-slot deal where he'd probably see the majors in August as a possible set-up man."

That is inside baseball talk that essentially means that if Burdi agrees to a smaller bonus payment than the maximum that baseball allows for his draft position ($2.475 million for the 15th pick), he would earn the promise of a major-league promotion in August.

He'd make back the missing bonus money because his salary would rocket to the $500,000 big-league minimum and, even better, he’d start the clock toward the really big money players earn in arbitration and later as free agents.

Burdi got the final out, a three-pitch strikeout with the bases loaded, in Louisville's 5-1 victory over Cincinnati Thursday. Credit him with his 14th save.

After the game both Burdi and McDonnell said they had not seen Law’s latest mock draft, but they've heard the chatter that Burdi could be pitching in the major leagues this season. Forget the movie about to open. Burdi has the real Million Dollar Arm.

"We’ve talked to some teams and we’ve heard that," Burdi said. "But right now my focus is living in the moment and enjoying being a Louisville Cardinal.

"I try to keep my mind off of that, but it's always been a dream of mine to play in the big leagues. If a team chooses me in the first round, that's also been one of my dreams. It's a bunch of stuff that I try to keep off my mind, but at the same time I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it."

"The exciting thing about Nick, and I don’t know everybody else in the draft, but in our eyes you would think Nick could be in the big leagues this summer," McDonnell said.

This is what Burdi’s stuff has shown this season: College baseball hitters are overmatched dealing with his 101 mph fastball, 89 mph breaking ball and improving change-up.

Burdi has now pitched 31 innings. He has allowed 23 baserunners (15 with hits) and two earned runs. Burdi has retired 54 guys on strikeouts, including at least one in eight consecutive games. One hitter has delivered an extra-base hit, a home run at Ohio State in a non-save situation.

That's not perfection. It's close enough.

Burdi has the right stuff – and the right spunk.

When he enters, the public address system crackles with the tune, "100 Black Coffins," the Rick Ross rap from the movie "Django Unchained."

Ask Burdi why he selected that tune. He'll laugh and tell you for the intimidation factor. His thunderous right arm does the rest. Major-league scouts have huddled behind the screen to track Burdi with their radar guns for two seasons. His time to make serious money is near. The MLB Draft begins June 5.

"For a team that has an immediate need for a reliever/closer, here’s a guy that if you’re trying to make a run at the pennant and need help on the back end of a bullpen, I would think his stuff is showing that," McDonnell said.

I asked Burdi if he could envision himself pitching in the big leagues this season.

"The draft is going to happen," he said. "My mindset right now is that at some point I’m going to get drafted.

"But it’s not going to happen on May 15 or whatever day it is. I'm just going to worry about the next game and ultimately spending as much time with these guys and enjoying my time as a Cardinal.”

This season?

"I think so," Burdi said. "Baseball is a simple game. We just make it tougher than it has to be. You just have to have that mindset that it's 60 feet 6 inches in the big leagues or in high school baseball."

I think so, too.

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