Ohhh we were fired up when the Pirates made Sean Burnett their first round pick in 2000. And it all looked great for so many years with numerous accolades and awards that we all are aware of, 2001 and 2002 Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the Pirates, Carolina League Pitcher of the Year also in 2002. He received the call and in 2004, Burnett was in the bigs. He started 13 games finishing 5-5 with a plus five ERA, the number one pick was where he had dreamed of for so many years growing up in sunny Florida.
Then the world went dark for Burnett in 2005. Plauged by shoulder and elbow problems, Tommy John surgery followed.
He has fought back with a vengenance. He made 24 starts at Indy in 2006 and then 13 more in 2007 before more arm problems set in.
As Pirates fans we all absolutely ADORE spring training . We all witnessed last year’s performance by Burnett in Bradenton. It was something we all dream about. Burnett was his old self. Controlling hitters by keeping the ball low in the zone. The changeup was puzzling. He didnt give up a HIT in his last eight innings pitched! He had earned a spot on the team.
However, Rule 5 pick Evan Meek was kept on the club. Burnett was furious over the snub and spoke his mind to Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“I really thought I had a chance of making this team. And to hear the reasons they gave me — or more like the excuses they made up — they didn’t really give me a chance. Look, I know you can’t go just by spring stats. Anybody can get hot for a month,” Burnett said. “But the way the ball was coming out of my hand, the movement, the location … if you talk to people who have seen me in the past, they’ll tell you everything was back. For Neal to say he took the 12 best … my personal opinion is that he took the 12 best from a business standpoint.”
Burnett was obviously not happy. He went back to Indy and showed it, he recorded three saves had an ERA of 1.04. He was recalled to Pittsburgh in May. ( I bet he was smiling during that call!) As expected, Meek was not able to hide on a 25 man roster sporting a 6.92 ERA before the Pirates offered cash to keep Meek and send him to the minor leagues. The maneuvering by Huntington had worked. Burnett had showed his ability as a reliever and the Pirates were able to also keep Meek.
But Burnett nearly blew it. He looked like he was pressing on the mound in his return to the big leagues. Night after night he labored. He had as many walks as innings pitched at one point and most fans thought he was gone.
The Pirates stood by Burnett. It paid off. He performed, albeit only at times, magically. Putting up impressive numbers over stretches of eight games where he refused to surrender a run. The first round draft pick had made it all the way back. And Pirate fans breathed a sigh of relief. Its been a long time.
Now Burnett returns once again to Florida. His homestate where all the dreams, accolades, and talent were bestowed upon him at a young age. He has worked so hard to live out his boyhood dream. And this year is crucial. Burnett has no options left which of course would mean he would have to clear waivers for the Pirates to keep him.
I believe he won’t have to speak his mind this year. If its middle relief you want, Burnett will be the guy. He has the fire. And this year, Burnett will earn a trip north with the best 12*