Pittsburgh Pirates newly acquired pitcher A.J. Burnett will miss two to three months after undergoing surgery for an orbital fracture near his right eye.
Burnett sustained the facial fracture during a bunting drill Wednesday when a foul ball ricocheted off his bat and hit below his eye. The Pirates staff said the injury will not affect his vision and there seems to be no damage to the muscles or nerves around his eye. It was certainly a scary scene for the players standing around as well as for the Pittsburgh fans watching on television.
The Pirates acquired Burnett from the New York Yankees on February 19 in a trade in which they sent two minor leaguers and cash. Pittsburgh was hoping this deal would get them over the hump in the competitive NL Central division in which two teams advanced to the postseason last year, including the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Burnett was also excited to be joining the Pirates as he felt it would be good for him to start fresh with a new team.
“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,” Burnett said a day after being traded.
Obviously, Burnett did not realize how hard bunting is and the damage a foul ball can do to one’s face.
“The initial step will be to heal from the surgery,” Pirates 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.”
Burnett signed a ridiculous contract with the Yankees in 2009 and simply did not live up to it. New York sent $20 million to Pittsburgh along with Burnett to help pay for the $33 million he is owed over the next two seasons.
In 33 games last year, Burnett was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 190.1 innings. In one game against the Detroit Tigers in the postseason he went 1-0 while surrendering one earned run and recording three strikeouts.