PHOENIX -- A.J. Burnett's uniform made it to the Chase Field visitors' clubhouse early Tuesday afternoon, and Burnett himself was not far behind.The recovering Pirates right-hander was expected to be on the bench for Tuesday night's affair with the Arizona Diamondbacks, as he makes an extended detour from a Minor League rehab that has one start remaining. The plan is for Burnett to be examined by the team's medical staff, throw a side session under pitching coach Ray Searage's watch on Wednesday, travel back East with the Bucs, and make a final rehab start on Saturday with Double-A Altoona. After that, he will be back with the Pirates to stay -- although he hasn't yet been even penciled into Clint Hurdle's rotation. "One more start. We'll leave it at that now," Hurdle said. "Then we'll go from there, barring any setbacks." A late April return would put Burnett right on target for the early end of the 8-12-week recovery window he'd been given following his March 2 surgery for a fractured right-eye orbital bone. Burnett is linking up with the Bucs fresh off his rocky but functional start on Monday night in Indianapolis. While touched for seven hits and five runs in four innings by Toledo, he upped his pitch count to 81 and had no health issues. "He spiked his pitch count, and his velocity was good. There's still some room for improvement," Hurdle said. "Maybe he wasn't as consistent as we want him, but his stamina was good. We just look to tighten up some things before we get him in a Major League game." This sets up as a potentially odd situation for the Pirates. Their five current starters have been nails, yet to allow more than three runs in any of their starts. Burnett's arrival would have to mean the exclusion of a current starter. The original design was for someone from the season-opening rotation to be moved to the bullpen, but the current relief corps has been even more effective than the starters. A trade is very much possible. Several Major League teams have already suffered key losses to their bullpens and would loom as logical trade partners.
Hanrahan day to day with tight hamstring
PHOENIX -- After he threw the final pitch of his save on Sunday in San Francisco, Joel Hanrahan wasn't jumping for joy. He was leaping with pain, and with a little anger.Turns out, the Pirates closer tweaked his right hamstring on that last pitch. He was not available Tuesday night, and remains day to day with tightness in that area. "I felt it right away [on that pitch]. It was like a cramp," Hanrahan said. "I'll rest it for a while, hope to get back Friday or Saturday. "If you watched my reaction after that last pitch, you saw I wasn't very happy. I learned my lesson: Don't throw 31 pitches." Hanrahan converted his only save opportunity of the young season, but not before issuing a pair of walks that forced him to twice deal with the potential tying run to close out the 4-1 victory in AT&T Park.
Pirates wrap up stretch packed with lefties
PHOENIX -- With Monday night's tussle against Arizona's Joe Saunders, the Pirates finally came to the end of the lefty line. For the next week, at least, they will be returning to a diet of right-handers.We are always being told by surveys that the share of left-handers in the human population never varies far from 10 percent. You can't convince the Bucs of that. If it seems that the Bucs have been facing southpaws every other day, you're absolutely right. Through Tuesday night's meeting with Arizona right-hander Ian Kennedy, the Pirates have literally been going right-left-right, etc., since Opening Day. The pattern actually reverts to Spring Training, when they opposed left-handed starters in half of their Grapefruit League games. "It is unusual," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "Not many years ago, you'd go a week, 10 days without seeing a single lefty." Hurdle was going on experience, but the game's demographics support his perception. Through Monday, of the 81 National League starters with qualifying stats (an inning pitched for each of their team's games) 25 were lefty, a percentage of 31. In 2005, that percentage was 25 (17 of 68), and in 2000, it was about the same (17 of 65, 26 percent). Seeing a string of right-handers going forward won't have any great team-wide benefit as the Pirates try for some offensive momentum, Hurdle said. But the continuity could jolt a player who had been regularly benched with a left-hander on the mound. "In [Pedro] Alvarez's case, it could be an opportunity to get rolling," Hurdle said.
D-backs not sleeping on Pirates' bats
PHOENIX -- Prior to every series, all teams hold extended pitchers meetings to go over the opposition's hitters and discuss how to approach them.What did the D-backs do in their meeting prior to this series with the Pirates? Giggle? Take up a collection to have limos pick up the Bucs at their hotel? Of course not. Arizona pitchers were told to be careful, to "stay away from their hot spots," said D-backs batting coach Don Baylor. He was not going for humor. The Pirates may have come here batting .188 as a team and with most of their lineup comfortably below the Mendoza Line -- a situation not changed by their six-hit defeat on Monday night. But "they are a Major League team. You can't back off. You still got to know how to get them out. You can't let down no matter who you're playing," Baylor said. Baylor knows Clint Hurdle, whom he brought in as hitting coach when he was managing the Rockies. A decade later, when Hurdle was still managing in Colorado, he brought Baylor back as the Rockies' hitting coach. So Baylor knows the Pirates have the right man to nurture them out of this slow start. "It's the first couple weeks of the season, and they've got a bunch of young guys still trying to find out where they belong. Like [Pedro] Alvarez," Baylor said. "I know Clint, and he has a lot of patience with young guys. He's just trying to get them to play."
Hurdle arranged for a Tucson boot-maker to display his wares and take players' orders in the clubhouse prior to Tuesday night's game.
"I tried to surprise the guys, put some big smiles on their faces," Hurdle said. Tuesday was the 57th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's Major League debut. The Great One went 3-for-8 in a doubleheader against the Brooklyn Dodgers on May 17, 1955. The Pirates ran to 11 games their season-opening streak of neither scoring nor allowing more than five runs a game. The last National League team to have a longer such streak were the 1965 Pirates, who did so for their first 16 games.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.