A.J. Burnett to make return Thursday, Pirates skipping Gerrit Cole’s next start

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The Pirates are set to welcome A.J. Burnett back from the disabled list. And they’ll do it just in time to give ace Gerrit Cole some rest in preparation for a postseason run.

According to Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Burnett will be activated to start Thursday against the Brewers. The veteran right-hander has been out since July 30 with a flexor strain in his throwing elbow. While some speculated that the injury could end his career, he has made progress since receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection. Burnett, who has a 3.06 ERA in 21 starts this season, threw a simulated game on Friday and made it through a bullpen session Sunday with no issues.

Cole lowered his ERA to 2.54 with a great start against the first-place Cardinals on Sunday, but he has already blown past his career-high with 180 2/3 innings. He threw 160 1/3 innings between the majors and the minors last season. His next start is expected to be in a doubleheader against the Cubs next Tuesday, so he’ll go eight days between starts.