The Pittsburgh Pirates are calling back a recent all-time favorite player. He will throw out the first pitch for the 2023 home opener.
Over the last few months, the Pittsburgh Pirates have really given fans a reason to look forward to Baseball. They improved the roster, brought back an icon in Andrew McCutchen, and yesterday they announced that AJ Burnett would throw the first pitch to Russell Martin at the Home Opener. It is exciting to see Burnett continue to care about the Organization and his time here. Speaking of which, let's take a look at both of his stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A.J. Burnett had a successful career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the team prior to the 2012 season, and went on to pitch for the Pirates for three seasons, from 2012-2014. Here is a brief recap of his time with the team:
2012: The Bucs acquired him in a salary dump trade with the Yankees during the offseason. In his first season with the Pirates, Burnett had a strong year, posting a 16-10 record with a 3.51 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 202.1 innings pitched. He helped lead the team to its best season in years, as the Pirates finished with a record of 79-83.
2013: Burnett continued his strong pitching in his second year with the Pirates, going 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA and 209 strikeouts in 191 innings pitched. He was a key contributor to the Pirates' playoff run, as they advanced to the NLDS before being eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals.
2014: Burnett had a tough season with the Philadelphia Phillies, going 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA and 190 strikeouts in 213.2 innings pitched. Burnett signed a 1-year contract worth $15 million with a mutual option for a second year. Both were ready to move on after just one season.
Burnett would end up returning to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015 and would have his most notable season with the Organization. He would earn All-Star honors for what would be the final season of his career. Burnett posted a 9-7 record with a 3.18 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 164 innings pitched. Despite his respectable ERA, Burnett had difficulty pitching deep into games, as he averaged just 5.5 innings per start. This led to speculation that he likely would be retiring, and such was the case.
Burnett moved on after helping lead the Pittsburgh to their third straight post-season. When the Bucs traded for Burnett from the Yankees a college professor of mine (a red sox fan) suggested that it was a typical Pirate move, bringing in a washed up veteran, acting like he is something. Well, I would say things worked out much better than anyone anticipated.