After a disastrous year, Burawa is ready to go
It represented one of the few times since last spring that he’d been anywhere but the training room at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa after a pair of injuries derailed what was supposed to be his first taste of the upper levels.
The first was a torn oblique muscle sustained during a spring outing against the Braves, which kept him down a few months. Once he had begun throwing a again and prepping for his return, he felt something else in midsection. Naturally, he went to see a trainer for a diagnosis.
The Yankees’ medical staff was stumped, leaving Burawa to stew and stress over the litany of possibilities. And while he’s healthy and recovered now, he still doesn’t know exactly what happened to him last summer.
“I haven’t had that injury explained to me. That’s how weird that injury is,” he explained. “They called it a broken rib, but it was nothing definitive. I saw a specialist. I went to sarcoma clinics because they thought it was a tumor at points. It was just a really weird injury that came out of nowhere.”
As is to be expected, the uncertainty left the right-hander with a sense of worry. Elbow and shoulder injuries, while troublesome and lengthy, are at least tangible and, more importantly, come with a prescribed course of action. When you can’t figure out what’s wrong, it’s very difficult to begin treatment. That absence of an answer allows the mind to wander toward the darkest possibilities.
“It’s terrifying going into a training room and them saying (nothing). At first (the trainer) said, ‘I know what’s wrong with you but I can’t tell you because I don’t understand it.’ That’s not what you want to hear from your trainer,” Burawa recounted.
Now fully recovered, Burawa’s velocity is back to its former 93-96 mile per hour range, and he’s throwing as freely as easily as he did in 2011, when he allowed just 77 hits in 84 innings between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, the first two major steps on the road to the Bronx.
That last part – the Bronx – is especially important for Burawa, who grew up in New York and was raised to worship those who wore the pinstripes. Before switching to the mound, he grew up playing shortstop and wanting to be Derek Jeter, just like multitudes of other boys in the tri-state area and nationwide.
During that 2011 season, the RiverDogs made the drive to Lakewood for a series with BlueClaws. After a day game, the entire team was offered a trip to Yankee Stadium to watch Bartolo Colon duel the White Sox. Of course, Burawa, like most of his teammates, jumped at the chance to surround himself with history.
“It was awesome,” he said at the time. “I got to meet heroes. I feel like everybody enjoyed it, but I feel like it couldn’t have meant as much to anyone else as it meant to me because those were heroes of mine for as long as I’ve liked baseball. To meet Derek Jeter, who I’ve idolized forever, and Mariano Rivera -- the greatest of all time -- that’s my team right there. To meet those guys, it was amazing.”
When he takes the mound in either Portland or New Hampshire for his first outing this season, he’ll not only have put last year’s disaster completely behind him, he’ll have a taken another big step toward realizing his dream of wearing the pinstripes.