Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett continues to make steady progress in his recovery from surgery to correct an orbital bone fracture below his right eye.
According to Tom Singer of MLB.com, Burnett tossed a successful 52-pitch bullpen session Wednesday in Pirates camp and has been cleared to throw a couple of innings Saturday in a simulated game. If all continues to go well, he should begin making minor-league rehab starts in early-to-mid April.
The Bucs acquired Burnett from the Yankees back in February for a couple of minor leaguers and cash considerations. He’s expected to be ready for live major league action by the first week or two of May.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.
Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.
The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.
If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.