ShareThis Page
Phillies pitcher Burnett holds no grudge against Pirates |

Phillies pitcher Burnett holds no grudge against Pirates

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett walks from the practice field after joining the team Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Clearwater, Fla.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — A.J. Burnett wasn’t happy with the way the Pirates passed him over to pitch Game 5 of the National League Division Series last October.

But Burnett insisted the snub had no bearing on his decision last week to reject a contract offer from the Pirates and sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Sunday, the Phillies finalized Burnett’s one-year, $16 million deal and introduced the right-hander at their spring training facility. Wearing a red warmup pullover and cap with a bright blue “P,” Burnett seemed relaxed after reporting to camp four days into workouts.

Burnett took nearly four months to decide to put off retirement, then narrowed his suitors to the Pirates and Phillies.

“It was close both ways,” Burnett said. “I had relationships there (in Pittsburgh). That group of guys there, those kids, will always be in my heart. They were wonderful, management and everything.”

Burnett said his final decision was swayed by Philadelphia’s proximity — about a 90-minute train ride — to his home in Monkton, Md.

“I’ll put it very simple …” Burnett said, then paused a moment. “This is the first time in my career that I made a decision that wasn’t about A.J. Burnett. It was about my wife. It was about my kids. It was about playing somewhere where I’m at home, and I can still do what I love. And that feels good. It was a no-brainer to me to make them happy.”

Burnett did not discuss the terms of his contract, which includes a limited no-trade clause, a player option for 2015 and performance bonuses. If he makes 30 or more starts in 2014 and 2015, Burnett will make a total of $33.5 million. By comparison, the Pirates’ last-gasp offer to Burnett was for one year at $12 million.

Burnett, 37, was traded to the Pirates before the 2012 season. He said joining the Pirates “kind of revived” his career, which had taken a sour turn with the New York Yankees.

“The fans there (in Pittsburgh) accepted me,” Burnett said. “And the guys in the clubhouse made it easy for me to find myself again.”

In Game 1 of the NL Division Series, Burnett was torched for seven runs in two innings against the St. Louis Cardinals. Manager Clint Hurdle chose rookie Gerrit Cole instead of Burnett to start the decisive Game 5, which the Pirates lost.

Sunday, Burnett dismissed the notion that there is bad blood between himself and Hurdle or general manager Neal Huntington.

“I’m a team guy,” Burnett said. “Nobody wants to have the ball taken from them. But that had no influence (on signing with the Phillies). I would’ve liked to have known ahead of time (that Cole would start), as opposed to what happened. But if it put our team in a better spot, I’m all for it. I was ready to go (in that game), if needed.”

Burnett said he spoke with Hurdle and Huntington after signing with the Phillies and described both the conversations as friendly.

Huntington opted against making Burnett a $14.1 million qualifying offer in November. At the time, Burnett had not indicated whether he would retire. If a player refuses a qualifying offer and then signs with another team, his previous club gets a draft pick as compensation.

“I didn’t think about it that much,” Burnett said. “I had said before, I would either (retire) or play for (the Pirates), so why would you (make the offer)? The fact that I didn’t know yet whether I wanted to play or not, I’m sure had a big impact on them.”

Burnett continued to work out during the offseason. By late January, he realized he still wanted to play.

“After speaking with my wife and the kids, they see it,” Burnett said. “They know that I’m not ready to go out right now. Daddy can still do it.”

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. used a low-pressure approach with Burnett, expressing interest in late November and then backing away. One day before pitchers and catchers reported, the Phillies and Burnett agreed to a deal.

“He’s a difference-maker for us, a big piece,” Amaro said. “He instantly brings depth to our pitching and creates some competition for the other spots and for our bullpen. I couldn’t be happier.”

Note: RHP Brad Lincoln is in camp with the Phillies after being traded from Toronto in early December. “There wasn’t a good fit with Toronto,” said Lincoln, who was dealt to the Blue Jays by the Pirates for RF Travis Snider on July 31, 2012.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.