Newly acquired Pittsburgh pitcher A.J. Burnett is expected to miss two to three months while recovering from surgery for a facial fracture, forcing the Pirates to rearrange their plans for opening day.
The Pirates had hoped Burnett would be able to start April 5 in the opener at home against Philadelphia. Pittsburgh got the 35-year-old righty on Feb. 19 from the New York Yankees in a trade for two minor leaguers and cash.
Burnett had surgery Friday in Pittsburgh for a broken orbital bone near his right eye. He was injured when he fouled a ball off his face Wednesday during a bunting drill.
A day after the trade, Burnett had said he looked forward to a fresh start with the Pirates.
”It’s going to be fun. I’m going back to the National League, where I can hit and bunt and get the joy back into the game,” he said then.
The Pirates said the injury didn’t affect Burnett’s vision and that there was no impingement to the muscles and nerves around his eye.
Burnett will return to Bradenton for his recovery.
”The initial step will be to heal from the surgery,” general manager Neal Huntington said. ”Secondly, we will recondition his arm and body to where he was prior to the injury. Lastly, we will put A.J. through the same progression as he would have gone through here in spring training.”
”The very rough timetable to complete this process and have A.J. prepared to compete without restrictions at the major league level is eight to 12 weeks,” he said.
The Pirates got Burnett and about $20 million from the Yankees to help cover his hefty salary. Burnett was due to make $33 million total over the next two seasons.
Burnett was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA during three seasons with the Yankees, including 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA last year. He led the major leagues with 25 wild pitches last year and allowed a career-high 31 homers.
The tattooed pitcher was wild off the field, too, known for pelting Yankees teammates in the face with cream pies following game-winning hits.
Minus Burnett, the Pirates’ rotation includes newly signed Erik Bedard and holdovers James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens.
Charlie Morton is recovering from hip surgery in October and might not be ready by opening day. He is scheduled to throw batting practice Saturday and might pitch in a ”B” game on Wednesday.
The Pirates will open the exhibition season on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.