Pirates’ Burnett to start Sunday

A.J. Burnett is set to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ rotation.

Manager Clint Hurdle says the veteran right-hander will start Sunday against the Chicago Cubs after being sidelined the past month because of a strained right calf.

Burnett apparently looked good enough in his bullpen sessions and simulated game that the Pirates decided a minor league rehab start was not necessary. Hurdle said Friday he didn’t think his pitcher would be ”as stimulated” as he would pitching at Wrigley Field.

”He was able to stay involved in games, throwing throughout this process with the exception of the first couple of days,” Hurdle said. ”First bullpen was what we expected. Simulated game, I thought we saw some good stuff. Next bullpen the timing and rhythm were really pretty sharp.”

Burnett is 4-6 with a 3.12 ERA in 14 starts, but even without him, the Pirates continue to roll along.

They entered Friday’s game against the Cubs with a major league-leading 52-32 record and a two-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central.

”It’s been fun to watch,” Burnett said. ”In the dugout. Every pitch. Every swing. Every move we make, I’m part of it, whether I’m on the field or not. It’s been awesome. Just can’t wait to contribute.