On the disabled list with strained flexor tendon in his elbow that threatens to end his season and by extension his career, Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett is making steady progress in his recovery.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that Burnett “feels good” after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection and could be close to throwing off a mound.
Hurdle hinted that convincing Burnett to be honest with the Pirates about how he feels will be key, because as a 38-year-old pitcher planning to retire after the season the temptation may be there to simply come back at any cost.
Burnett made the All-Star team by going 7-3 with a 2.11 ERA in the first half, but then allowed 19 runs in 16 innings over his first three post-break starts and was shut down.
2:43 PM: The news on A.J. Burnett seemed dire as of yesterday: the possibility of a torn UCL and, given his lack of a desire to have surgery, the likely end of his career.
Today things are slightly better. But only slightly.
It’s still not a given of course. Lots of guys miss whole seasons with flexor tendon issues and surgery is often an option to address it. Morosi suggests that Burnett could pitch through the pain of it, but of course there’s no guarantee that he can even be effective.
Better than a torn UCL I suppose, though still not fantastic news.
Pirates starter A.J. Burnett went on the disabled list on Friday with inflammation in his right elbow. He’s set to undergo an MRI on Monday. His final pitch on July 30 against the Reds, which resulted in Billy Hamilton reaching after a throwing error by Pedro Alvarez, may have been the last of his career.
Per MLB.com’s Tom Singer:
“It’s either [the ulnar ligament],” said Burnett, who had the requisite Tommy John surgery for that in 2003, “or the flexor [tendon]. I’m prepared for both. Either way, I’m not going to be bothered by the result.”
Burnett rules out surgery and vowed to not return “if I can’t throw, or if I’m throwing what I was throwing the other night. I can’t do it to these guys.”
The 38-year-old right-hander plans to retire after the season. After a disappointing 2014 campaign with the Phillies — during which he pitched with an inguinal hernia — Burnett has put together a great season back in Pittsburgh, sitting on a 3.06 ERA with a 114/36 K/BB ratio in 135 1/3 innings.
If it’s curtains for Burnett, he finishes with 163 wins over 17 seasons along with a 3.99 ERA and 2,484 career strikeouts.