Saturday, April 21, 2012

A.J. Burnett To Make Debut

This past winter, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a clear cut effort to increase the strikeout numbers of their starting rotation. They obviously weren't willing to wait a couple of years for guys like Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, and Stetson Allie to make their way to the big club. So one of the guys they acquired to bolster those numbers was A.J. Burnett. Unfortunately, one thing that the New York Yankees forgot to mention before they traded him was that he didn't know how to bunt. In spring training, he bunted a ball into his eye which broke his orbital bone.

After the injury, most of the reports were that he would not be pitching for the Pirates until early May and that was being optimistic. Well the shocking news came on Saturday afternoon that he would make his season debut on Saturday night. The reason for the early return is that the guy who was supposed to start, Kevin Correia, has "discomfort" in his left side. I have no idea what that means but usually when it results in Correia not pitching at home, it's a good thing.

Sure, it is exciting to have Burnett pitching for the Pirates but not all is good in the world. I hate to rain on anyone's parade but I'm struggling to see positives at this point. Nothing is good about two starting pitchers being on the disabled list even after the return of Burnett and Charlie Morton. Jeff Karstens was placed on the DL after sustaining a shoulder injury in his last start. Nothing official has happened with Correia yet but if he is put on the disabled list, that will probably make Brad Lincoln the fifth starter.

Was that depressing enough for you? No? I'll keep going then. Burnett pitching is probably more because he is healthy than because he's ready to pitch. The reason he was scheduled to have more rehab starts is because this is his de facto spring training. He was roughed up pretty well in his last start in Indianapolis where he gave up five runs in a loss to Toledo. He even allowed two home runs to Brad Eldred (Yes, he still plays baseball).

Then of course there is the fact that pitching hasn't exactly been the problem for the Pirates. Burnett can't even bunt so I wouldn't expect him to add too much offensively. I'm positive that Burnett will be a solid addition to the rotation. But if you are expecting him to go out and pitch seven scoreless innings against the best team in the division, you're sadly mistaken.

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