Pirates notebook: Burnett mulling retirement after season |

Pirates notebook: Burnett mulling retirement after season

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett picks off a runner at first base during a game against the Twins on Saturday, March 9, 2013, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — A.J. Burnett is mulling whether to retire after the 2013 season. But if he decides to keep playing, Burnett might consider an offer from only one team: the Pirates.

“I enjoy it here, and I enjoy these guys,” Burnett said Thursday after pitching three innings in his final spring training tune-up. “If I was to keep playing, I wouldn’t want it to be anywhere else but Pittsburgh. My wife and I talk about it now and then. But it’s something I’ve got to put on the back burner. I’m just going to concentrate on this season, one start at a time.”

Burnett, 36, is in the final year of a five-year, $82.5 million contract that he signed when he joined the New York Yankees. Burnett said he is not currently talking with the Pirates about a new deal.

“I know it’s going to come up,” Burnett said. “These guys (teammates) keep getting on me about it. They keep saying, ‘Two more (years)! Two more!’ I don’t know. We’ll see.”

The Pirates acquired Burnett in a trade during spring training last year. The right-hander went 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA and led the team in strikeouts (180) and innings pitched (202 13).

As he prepares for his 15th season in the majors, Burnett doesn’t have many personal milestones to attain. He owns 10 career shutouts. He’s thrown a no-hitter. He’s pitched in the playoffs, including two World Series starts in 2009 with the Yankees.

Burnett said he’d like to be around when the Pirates complete their turnaround. Yet he also wants to spend more time with his wife and kids, and that could be what nudges him toward retirement.

“It’s a family thing,” Burnett said. “My kids are 9 and 12 now. I’m sure if I mention (retiring) to them, they’d say, ‘No, keep playing.’ But … I don’t know.”

Mr. Burnett, I presume

Wednesday was the first time this spring Russell Martin caught Burnett in a game. Burnett opted to do much of his preseason work in minor league games, so it was the first time he faced big league hitters since March 9.

“Today, Russ and I got to work on some things and throw some pitches in some counts that might happen during the season,” Burnett said. “You can talk about it all you want. But once you get out there and you work together, that makes it more real.”

Martin caught Burnett in 2011, when they both played for the Yankees.

“He wasn’t that much different today,” Martin said. “It was good to see his breaking ball, the way it was working today. It was good to see him out there in that competitive mode. A.J. is a pretty polished veteran. He knows what he has to do out there. He doesn’t get too rattled. For him, this is about getting his feet wet.”

How they line up

Garrett Jones hit second Thursday and will be in that spot again Friday in the Grapefruit League finale against the Yankees. Manager Clint Hurdle said he likes Jones in the 2-hole because of his .880 career OPS against right-handed hitters. Martin, Travis Snider and Neil Walker also will bat second this season. … Batting fourth, Pedro Alvarez went 4 for 5, including a monster home run, with three RBI. Will Alvarez bat cleanup on Opening Day? “I’m really feeling that,” Hurdle said.

Roster moves

Right-hander Hunter Strickland and infielder Clint Robinson were designated for assignment Thursday. That created space for lefty Jonathan Sanchez and infielder Brandon Inge on the 40-man roster.

Spinning turnstiles

The crowd of 7,141 on Thursday in the final game this spring at McKechnie Field boosted the Pirates’ total this year to a record 93,433 in 15 games. In 2011, the Pirates drew 88,003 over 16 spring games. Recent renovations to McKechnie Field, including left-field bleachers and an outfield boardwalk, raised the 90-year-old ballpark’s capacity by 2,000.

“The support we’ve enjoyed from our fans, whether they have been coming to McKechnie Field for 45 years or if they made their first visit this spring, is why we are so proud to call Bradenton our southern home,” president Frank Coonelly said.

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

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