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Jake Burger got the fancy introduction to spring training, jumping right into the big league camp the year after the White Sox selected him in the first round.
He hadn’t wasted the opportunity. He rumbled for a triple in his first game on Saturday, and followed it up with both a double and a fine play behind third base in his second game on Monday.
Unfortunately, that might be all the action he sees this year. Running out a grounder in the third inning, Burger collapsed about 15 feet before the bag, after which he writhed on the ground while clutching his lower leg.
He had to be carted off the field, and the White Sox’ only injury update was an ominous one:
Jake Burger suffered injury to left Achilles tendon. He is currently being evaluated and his status will be updated tomorrow.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) February 26, 2018
Assuming it’s the worst case — a rupture — it’s a tough break for a number of reasons. It brings to mind the ankle injury Jared Mitchell suffered in his first spring training back in 2010, which stunted the rest of his career. Mitchell’s game had a lot more to do with his legs, and the White Sox didn’t do him any favors with extremely aggressive post-injury assignments, so perhaps the chips won’t be stacked against Burger in the same way before he even retakes the field.
Specific to Burger, though, he was among the more compelling prospects to watch early in the season, as he acknowledged and attempted to address the biggest initial concerns about his game. He moved to Arizona to spend the offseason conditioning, eliciting laughs at SoxFest when talking about his hot yoga classes with Nicky Delmonico. Burger also didn’t shy away from the idea that he needed to get more lift on his batted balls after a so-so pro debut at Kannapolis. Given his status as one of collegiate baseball’s more polished power bats, he had the potential to pounce on A-ball pitching this year and get people talking about a specific time table.
If he’s done for the season, that talk will have to wait a year, with the hope that the injury doesn’t cost him any of the mobility he needs to stick at third base.
And if he’s done for the year, it reduces the depth from which the Sox could feasibly accelerate the timetable in 2019, as one assumes it would take him some time to get back up to speed. Granted, a lot of future offseason plans among Sox fans include Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson at third base, but the rebuild is going to need waves of talent in order to be more than random runs at 90 wins here and there. Burger is part of that overall depth, and it doesn’t help that it comes after the news that Micker Adolfo is trying to stave off his own surgery.
It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not a fun way to start spring training. Perhaps the Sox should hope everybody else makes it out of February in working order and go from there.
UPDATE (10:40 a.m.): It’s indeed a rupture.
Jake Burger has been diagnosed with a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon. He will have the tendon surgically repaired in Chicago later this week, but is expected to miss the 2018 season.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) February 27, 2018