A.J. Burnett makes first minor league rehab start

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After suffering a fractured orbital bone in his right eye during a bunting drill on February 29, the expectation was that A.J. Burnett would need around eight to 12 weeks of recovery time. It sounds like he’ll meet the lower end of that timetable.

Burnett made his first minor league rehab start with High-A Bradenton last night and allowed one run on two hits over 4 2/3 innings. He threw approximately 70 pitches while striking out five and walking just one.

Burnett told Tom Singer of MLB.com that he felt good and should be ready to make the next step in his rehab process in five days.

“We’ll see how I feel five days from now, and go from there,” he said. “But everything feels good right now. Every time out, I’m getting better and better. I’d let them know if I can’t go, or if I need more time.”

There’s no formal timetable, but assuming no setbacks, Burnett should be stretched out in time to make his Pirates’ debut before the end of the month.

Burnett, 35, was acquired from Yankees in February for a couple of minor leaguers and cash considerations. He posted a 5.15 ERA and 173/83 K/BB ratio in 190 1/3 innings last year.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.