Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett has been diagnosed with an orbital fracture of his right eye and will have surgery on Friday to repain the broken orbital bone. He suffered the injury while putting down a bunt in spring training drills.
The Pirates won’t know an exact recovery time of the injury until after surgery, the team says. Normal recovery time is considered three to six weeks.
Internally, the 35 year old Burnett has been viewed by Pirate management as the team’s ace and top of the rotation starter going into the regular season.
With Charlie Morton’s availablity for the start of the season a wait and see situation right now, the Pirates could be down two starters going into a brutal April schedule that has them playing Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Arizona, Colorado, and Atlanta. Morton though is progressing and doing very well after October hip surgery.
The Pirates feel this is their deepest rotation in the Neal Huntington era with Burnett, Morton, Erik Bedard, James McDonald, Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, in addition to the likes of Brad Lincoln who entered spring training destined for the bullpen if he were to make the opening day roster.
Burnett, Bedard and Morton are widely viewed by high ranking officials in the organization as the team’s top-3 starters.
Burnett posted an 11-11 record in 33 games (32 starts) with New York in 2011, winning at least 10 games for the seventh straight season and for the ninth time in his career. He also started and won Game Four of the American League Division Series at Detroit on October 4.
Burnett ranks seventh among Major League pitchers in strikeouts (1791) since making his debut with Florida in 1999. In his 13 big league seasons, he has recorded a 121-111 record and a 4.10 ERA in 314 games (309 starts) while making at least 30 starts five times. Burnett has also pitched over 200 innings four times in his career, including a career-high 221.1ip with Toronto in 2008.