BRADENTON, Fla. — Early Saturday morning, right-hander A.J. Burnett threw a 30 pitch side session to the Pirates bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade with pitching coach Ray Searage and Special Assistant to the General Manager Jim Benedict looking on in the bullpens to the right of McKechnie Field.
Burnett, who underwent surgery to repair the fractured orbital bone in his right eye while fouling on a bunt attempt at Pirate City, said he threw mostly fastballs during his first session since undergoing the surgery on March 2nd.
“I felt a little better than I thought I would, strength-wise. The things I’ve been doing have been good. We’re on the right track. We’ll play catch tomorrow and throw another bullpen,” Burnett said. “I’ll throw again I think, in two days.”
“[I threw mostly] fastballs. A couple change-ups. Just to make Ray [Searage] happy,” Burnett said with a smile. “Mainly fastballs. I learned last year how to use [my change-up] a little bit. I figured I’d throw a couple here and there and see how it feels.”
Burnett returned to Bradenton, Fla., a week ago after being cleared to begin the second portion of his return to pitch program. The first phase was recovering from the surgery itself. Burnett’s eye, which last Saturday was bruised and was still bloody in the eye socket, looked much better over the short time span.
“It feels fine. I can feel a little pressure in there still from a little bit of the swelling. Maybe a tad bit. As far as vision, discomfort, anything else, there’s nothing there,” Burnett said. “Still a little swelling in it here and there. It’s not affecting my vision at all. It’s about, when the arm’s going to be ready to go. When I get the strength back, game like situations.”
While side sessions may be just a part in his rehab process, Burnett is happy just to be able to get back out on the bump. He said it was the first time in a while that he has enjoyed a bullpen session so much.
“Yeah, it’s been a while,” Burnett said. “It was fun. It was a little odd at first. After the first five, 10 or so [pitches], you get back into it.”
“I don’t see any problems going forward. As soon as we get the arm straight, the body in shape, we’ll go full-bore. We’re pretty much going at it now. Doing total body workouts, running, everything now, so it’s just a matter of time when it gets to where I feel like I’m ready for a game.”