A.J. Burnett throws first side session since surgery to repair orbital fracture

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It’s not clear when A.J. Burnett will make his Pirates’ debut, but he took a step in the right direction this morning in Bradenton, Florida.

According to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Burnett threw 30 pitches — all fastballs — during his first side session since undergoing surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone in his right eye on March 2.

Burnett told Kovacevic that he’s dealing with some swelling, but isn’t having any problems with his vision. He’s currently focused on building up his arm strength and is scheduled to throw another bullpen session Monday.

“I felt a little better than I thought I would strength-wise,” Burnett said. “Things have been going well. We’re on the right track.”

Burnett was estimated to miss two to three months following surgery, so he’ll likely won’t join the Pirates’ starting rotation until May or June.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.