A.J. Burnett says 2015 campaign will be his final season
By Jake Misener
After taking less money to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the offseason, veteran right-hander A.J. Burnett has his sights set high in 2015 – and reasonably so. His last go-round with the Bucs had the city of Pittsburgh ready to erupt as postseason baseball returned at long-last.
However, 2015 will also be different for the righty for one rather large reason: it will, in all likelihood, be his last season as a big league pitcher, marking the end of a career full of ups-and-downs.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Burnett is set to hang it up after this season, which will be his 17th in Major League Baseball.
"“I got one (season) left,” Burnett said.“I wanted to make sure I went somewhere where I was happy but also had a chance to win.”"
Last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, the right-hander toiled – to no avail. He lost a league-leading 18 games that may have been challenged by the Chicago Cubs’ Edwin Jackson had he not lost the final month to injury and a benching – but, by and large, was the highest total for a prominent arm in the National League.
The lowly Phillies, a team that has been rumored to be on the brink of a complete fire sale all offseason long, got 190 strikeouts from Burnett – a tally that ranked ninth in the league, but also got a disappointing 4.59 earned run average just one year after the right-hander posted a 3.30 mark with Pittsburgh.
For the Pirates to contend in 2015, Burnett will, at least to some degree, return to form after a disappointing “down” year in the City of Brotherly Love. And, in typical Burnett fashion, he’s the first one to admit that.
"“A bad year is a bad year,” Burnett said. “I know it’s on the back of the (baseball) card, and that’s the one you don’t want to look at but … I know I’m in a good (pitcher’s) park. If I keep the ball on the ground with our defense, it’s going to be a huge positive.”"
The Tribune-Review report points out that the righty lost noticeable velocity on his fastball last season – which will certainly be something to keep an eye on this year. However, pitch location – as noted by Burnett – will likely be the “make or break” factor for him in 2015.
The right-hander experienced a rejuvenation of sorts with the Pirates in 2012 and 2013, with a combined 3.41 ERA across the two seasons, which included 61 starts spanning nearly 400 innings of work. The hope – for both Pittsburgh and the 38-year-old Burnett – is that one final stint with the team will end on a high note.
"“It’s going to be one of those rides where you know it’s the end,” he said. “I don’t plan on talking about it until it comes to that day.”"