Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett will undergo surgery on Friday to repair a fractured right orbital bone.
Article continues below ...
The right-hander was injured Wednesday at the team’s spring training facilities in Bradenton, Fla., while trying to bunt. The failed attempt caromed off his bat and into his face.
He flew to Pittsburgh late Wednesday to be further evaluated.
There is no immediate timetable for Burnett’s return. The 35-year-old was acquired in a three-player trade with the New York Yankees last month and was expected to join the rotation on a team looking to improve on a 72-90 record last season.
Burnett, a two-time World Series winner, is also trying to rehabilitate his career. He struggled during his final two seasons in New York, posting a 21-26 record with a 5.20 ERA. He led the major leagues with 25 wild pitches in 2011 while allowing a career-high 31 homers.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington were not immediately available for comment. The Pirates open the spring training schedule with an intrasquad game on Friday then face the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Burnett isn’t the first prominent professional athlete in Pittsburgh to sustain a fractured orbital bone. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison fractured his left orbital bone in a loss to Houston last October when the forepad in his helmet slammed down onto his eye. Harrison underwent surgery and returned to the field five weeks later.
Dr. Sherrel Aston, a plastic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said it takes about approximately one month to return to normal athletic activities following orbital bone surgery but could vary depending on the extent of the damage.
Even with that timeline it’s uncertain if Burnett would be ready when the Pirates host the Phillies on Opening Day on April 5. The Pirates would most likely turn to veteran left-hander Erik Bedard or right-hander Kevin Correia to start the opener.
Burnett’s absence likely opens the door for right-hander Brad Lincoln, who went 2-3 with a 4.72 ERA last season. Lincoln was a longshot to make the starting rotation when camp opened. The Pirates already have five established starters and that doesn’t include Charlie Morton, who won’t be back until May as he recovers from offseason surgery.