The feeling for the majority of the offseason has been that A.J. Burnett wouldn’t be returning to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014, and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com wrote a story today that backed up that feeling.
Burnett was great for the Pirates in 2013 with a 3.30 ERA and a 2.80 FIP. His 9.85 K/9 was a career-best for Burnett and it also led the National League among starting pitchers. He also posted some of the better control numbers of his career with just 3.16 BB/9 while also forcing opposing hitters to hit the ball on the ground 56.5 percent of the time.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly told the following to ESPN.com on Thursday:
“We’d love to have A.J. back, but right now we’ve turned the page and we’re heading to Bradenton (Fla.) thinking he’s not going to be with us. But if he surprises us and calls up tomorrow and says he wants to pitch again, we’d love to have him. If he surprises us and he calls tomorrow and he’s as passionate and competitive and as determined as he was for the first two years that he was with us, we would be thrilled to have him back. And we have the flexibility to bring him back.”
Although it was assumed that Burnett would not return to the Pirates, hearing it from the president of the team makes it seem much more likely that Burnett will retire. Unfortunately, it seems that Pirates fans can pretty much give up on the last bit of hope they had for a possible Burnett return. As of right now, assuming there won’t be any more additions, the Pirates are set to roll with a rotation of Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez and then either Jeff Locke or Edinson Volquez with top prospect Jameson Taillon expected to be called up in June or July.