Nick Burdi

Former Louisville closer Nick Burdi left the game for Pittsburgh with an arm injury Monday night. Photo by Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- What I remember from the Nick Burdi Era with the University of Louisville baseball team is more than the triple-digit fastball, the vicious slider, the strikeouts and the winning.

What I remember is the running.

Back and forth across the outfield at Patterson Stadium.

Every pitcher runs. Strong legs, strong arm.

No pitcher ran like Burdi.

(Encouraging update on the arm injury Burdi suffered Monday night.)

The first time I saw it, I figured it was some freshman who had not gotten into the game for the Cardinals.

It was late. Well past 10 p.m., at least an hour after Burdi had closed a game for Dan McDonnell's powerful 2014 team. I'm sure he struck out two and likely three in his final inning. He always did.

Fans were gone. Friends were gone. Teammates were gone.

Just a few folks in the press box and the folks cleaning the field and grandstand.

Nick Burdi, the best relief pitcher in college baseball, was only getting started. From the right field foul line to the left field foul line. He ran. For at least 30 minutes.

As I said, I thought it was a freshman or somebody who had not pitched that night.

No, that was Nick -- Louisville's all-time saves leader, a guy who averaged nearly two strikeouts per inning while saving 34 games for the Cardinals during his sophomore and junior seasons.

All-American pitcher. All-Universe work ethic.

I started this column with those warmup paragraphs because if anybody has the work ethic to overcome the injury Burdi suffered Monday night in Pittsburgh, it's Nick Burdi.

I got to the situation late while searching for major league baseball to watch. The TV shot showed a Pirates' relief pitcher sitting on the mound, head down, bent over from the shoulders.

Teammates placed hands on him in prayer and support. A shot from the Arizona dugout captured legitimate concern on the faces of Diamondbacks' players.

Video like that immediately makes you fear that a pitcher has been hit in the face by a line drive.

For Nick Burdi, this injury appeared more painful. It had to be, knowing his injury history.

He held his right biceps and elbow.

The elbow that he had tendons repaired in the surgery baseball people call Tommy John surgery. The surgery that comes with arduous and painful rehab that can stretch from 10-18 months.

"It just knocks the breath right out of you," Clint Hurdle told Ron Cook of our sister paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the the game.

"It's sports. You love to compete. You love to watch young men play. That's the hard part of it when something like that happens. It gives you something to contemplate.

"Man, the fine line between competing one pitch and the next pitch, you're down like that. I haven't experienced that before with a guy on the mound or in a game when that type of reaction came after a pitch."

Burdi had that surgery in 2017. So did his brother, Zack, another former U of L closer who is trying to make his way back with the Chicago White Sox.

Nick Burdi made it back. Made it back to pitching. Made it back from being exposed in the Rule 5 Draft by the Minnesota Twins. Made it back to make his major league debut with Pittsburgh last season, where he is earning $559,000, a bit more than the big-league minimum.

Made it back through a terrific spring training performance with the Pirates in March.

Just Monday, I mentioned the inspiring returns of the Burdi Brothers in the Monday Muse.

Zack reported to the White Sox Class A affiliate in Kannapolis, N.C. He made his debut Monday night -- and struck out the side in his only inning.

If he succeeds there, he will be fast-tracked to Chicago.

Nick was pitching like one of the most valuable arms in the Pittsburgh bullpen. He won his first major-league game against the Nationals April 12 and then earned another win in relief against Detroit six days ago.

Until Monday night, Burdi averaged more than two strikeouts per inning, which is ridiculous at any level above Little League.

Now …

Now the wait continues for more medical information. There was no official announcement by the Pirates Monday night.

The situation did not look encouraging.

"Heart-wrenching," Pirates relief pitcher Kyle Crick told Cook. "To know what he went through the previous years to get back here and having success in the big leagues, it's tough."

But if anybody can outrun another arm injury, it's Nick Burdi.

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