Pittsburgh Pirates get good news: AJ Burnett not done yet


The Pittsburgh Pirates got some good news today.

A.J. Burnett‘s final season will not come to a premature end due to an elbow injury. As JP Morosi reports:

While not entirely a surprise, this news will still considerably change the outlook of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting rotation in the short-term. Currently ranking four in all of baseball with a 3.33 ERA, the Pirates’ starters will now have to rely on Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke more than ever. The recently acquired J.A. Happ also figures to be in the mix as the Pirates’ number five starter. Assuming he clears waivers, Vance Worley also figures to rejoin the big league club at the very least. All of this will be seen as holding down the fort until Burnett eyes a return.

UPDATE: The Tribune Review’s Travis Sawchik gives official word from the Pirates.

For Burnett, it would be hard for anyone to speculate the relief he must be feeling. Having come back to the Pirates for one last ride, Burnett seemed to alternate between assuredly saying that he would pitch through any pain and allowing the realization that his career may be over to sink in, as seen in the quote below from Tom Singer via CBS sports:

"“I might start thinking about that if I thought it could be over,” said Burnett when asked if this latest injury could end his career."

To the Pittsburgh Pirates, Burnett means more than just a capable major league starter. When the Pirates traded for Burnett in 2012, Burnett instantly brought a new level of accountability to the ballclub. His acquisition paired with the signing of Russell Martin in 2013 did as much to push the Pirates’ rebirth than Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, or Gerrit Cole‘s arrivals did. Burnett immediately jump-started the change in atmosphere that Clint Hurdle had started in 2011.

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Before Burnett’s 2015 started taking a nosedive, there was talk – chiefly among local and national media – that Burnett’s incredible performance out of the gate may sway him to return for one last final season in 2016. With this current injury news, it is still up in the air if that were to be the case.

If Burnett chooses to call it a career after this season, what a hell of a ride it has been. Finally earning his first All-Star nomination this year, Burnett has been very durable throughout his career. Going into 2015, Burnett had seven consecutive seasons of 30 or more starts, pitching at least 186 innings in each. With a no-hitter, World Series championship, and now All-Star under his belt, Burnett has nothing left to prove to the baseball world.

And he especially has nothing left to prove to Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Because they already know.

The dude is special.

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