BRADENTON — Right-hander A.J. Burnett underwent successful surgery this morning to repair the fractured orbital bone in his right eye. In part of a three step process he will undergo, Burnett’s very rough timetable to compete without restrictions at the Major League level is 8-12 weeks.
“A.J. will work through the three step return to pitch progression,” said General Manager Neal Huntington. “The initial step will be to heal from the surgery. 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 8-12 weeks.”
The rough timetable for a return for Burnett would be around May or June, but as Huntington mentioned, injuries are grey areas and they take as long as they take.
“If A.J. feels good tomorrow, then we continue to take another step forward,” Huntington said. “It’s not up to him, it’s up to his body and how we move through the process. If it were up to A.J., he’d probably pitch tomorrow. But that’s not the smartest thing for us in the world as an organization. He wants back out there. He’s hungry. He’s angry. He’s frustrated. He’s disappointed. And he’s ready to go. We’ve got to be the ones that are smart to get him back out there when he’s ready, each step along the way. What he does today will dictate what he does tomorrow.
“We’re working through what the first phase is of recovery. Is it just time down? Where does he do that time down? When does he get rechecked? Those are all questions that we are going to answer the next couple days. We’ll certainly see him in Bradenton sooner than later.”
The surgery on Burnett’s right eye was performed by Dr. Randall Beatty at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
“The thing that most concerned us was the fracture, and that’s been prepared,” Huntington said. “We’re looking forward to getting A.J. back out. As we walk through that cycle, there’s a timeframe for him to just recover from the surgery, for the wound to heal. Then we got to recondition. Then we got to get him through a normal spring training. There’s going to be some time to get him back out there. But everything went well with the surgery in terms of what we expected, what we saw, what we found…He’s got a pretty good shiner going right now but in good spirits.”
Burnett was diagnosed with a right eye orbital fracture on Thursday after undergoing additional medical examinations on his right eye in Pittsburgh.
During the sweet 16 round of the bunting championship on Field 5 at Pirate City on Wednesday, Burnett bunted a foul ball that ricocheted off his face and hit his right eye socket. The ball was delivered by a pitching machine on the field.
“Fluke things happen,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s unfortunate. Bunt you move on. There’s no other way around it. He had been bunting for a week. It wasn’t we just threw a bat in his hands that day. He talked about getting back in the National League and doing this. Sometimes fluke things happen. You don’t need to psychoanalyze it, or take it any deeper than that. It’s unfortunate. We feel bad for him. He feels bad. We have all gotten past that point. I think he’s in a better point then when the injury first happened. You focus forward, and you get ready for the season.”
Hurdle was not at the field when the accident occurred on Wednesday. Immediately following getting hit, the Pirates training staff rushed over to Burnett and he was aided for a few minutes before he walked off the field with a towel over his eye for further examinations by the medical staff.
Burnett was originally slated to make his Bucco debut at the Pirates home opener at McKechnie Field on Saturday against his former club, the Toronto Blue Jays.
“Our thoughts are with him,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s a very unfortunate situation that we find him in. Neal and I have gotten together, depth is critical. One of the things that we were very aggressive with, as well as specific positions to add and players to add, was creating more depth from the starting pitching in, from the bullpen in, from the position players. You’re going to have adversity in the game. You’re going to have challenges. There’s always shifts that come and go. When shift happens, then you got to have to put a foot down and you go from there. We’ve got opportunity for other men…It’s never a focus on what you don’t have, it’s always more important to focus on what you do have.”
“No slight to A.J., three weeks ago we didn’t have him on our roster and we felt good about our starting rotation,” Huntington said. “When he goes back out there, he’s going to make us better. Until then, we still feel like we’ve got capable and quality starting pitchers ready to go…The competition really goes from seven to six, and we’re looking for some guys to take a step forward here in spring training and maybe force their way into that. We still feel good about our pitching depth and our rotation.”
Burnett was acquired from the New York Yankees on February 18 in exchange for prospects Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno.
Video courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates