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.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.