When A.J. Burnett underwent eye surgery in early March after fracturing his orbital bone during a bunting drill, the Pirates’ doctors guessed that he would be sidelined for 8-12 weeks. But recent reports out of Bradenton, Florida have us thinking the right-hander might beat that timetable altogether.
According to MLB.com’s Tom Singer, Burnett rode a stationary bike and played a light game of catch Saturday in Pirates camp. It was his first workout since the procedure, and he came out of it feeling fine. Originally, the Bucs didn’t think he would be ready for those sort of activities for at least another week.
“Everything went well. I’m happy to be back down here with the guys,” an optimistic Burnett told reporters on Saturday afternoon. “I just got through a pretty good bike routine, so I’ve got some catching up to do. And I worked out a little bit, played some catch. We’ll take it day to day. But, as of right now, it feels good.”
The Pirates acquired Burnett from the Yankees back in mid-February for a couple of minor leaguers and cash considerations. He should be an active member of the Pittsburgh starting rotation by early May.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.