A.J. Burnett went for an MRI today to get the diagnosis on his right elbow, and to find out whether he’d be able to pitch again. Jon Morosi reports that Burnett has a strained flexor tendon, and that the UCL is intact.
A.J. Burnett has a strained flexor tendon. UCL is intact. He will undergo treatment in hopes of pitching again this year. #Pirates
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) August 3, 2015
This is good news in terms of Burnett trying to return to pitch this year. A problem with the UCL would have essentially ended his season. The strained flexor tendon is still an issue, but there’s a chance Burnett could pitch again this year, especially with his high tolerance to pain (as we saw with his hernia issue last year).
As an example of the impact of this type of injury, Matt Cain had something similar at the start of the year, and didn’t return to the majors until July, although he started rehabbing in early June. That timeline isn’t good for the Pirates, although Burnett might be able to return earlier, especially since he’s retiring after the year, and wouldn’t be focused on maintaining his arm health for the long-term. We also don’t know how serious this is, compared to Cain’s example, and the Pirates haven’t released any details on a potential timeline for Burnett to return.
Overall, Burnett has a chance to return this year, which is better than things looked yesterday.
UPDATE 4:23 PM: Pete Ellis is at PNC Park, getting live coverage for the site. However, Burnett declined to speak to the media prior to the game, and Clint Hurdle said he wouldn’t provide an update until he spoke with Burnett.
The Pirates have since announced that Burnett was diagnosed with a flexor strain in his right elbow, and that he received a PRP injection. The estimated time of return is approximately four weeks, which is a good sign for Burnett returning this year.
UPDATE 5:34 PM: Update from Pete Ellis…
AJ Burnett addressed the media in light of the news that he will miss an estimated four weeks with a flexor strain in his right elbow, and was pleased overall with the prognosis of possibly returning to the mound this season.
“This is the news that you want in order to get back onto the mound,” Burnett explained. “I think if it was anything ligament-wise, then I’d have to reconsider [pitching again this season]. I was hoping no bad news, but this is the news that I was hoping for than [ligament damage] because guys come back from this.”
Burnett acknowledged that four weeks is no guarantee, as this injury comes with plenty of uncertainty. He mentioned former Pirate Jason Grilli – who suffered a flexor strain in late July of the 2013 season and returned to the mound in early September – as an example of a player who was able to recover within the estimated timetable. Another relatable instance was Nationals’ pitcher Doug Fister, who suffered a flexor strain in May and missed just over a month.
However, there are other instances where the recovery time took longer, as noted above with Matt Cain.
Burnett said that he will not rush back and put the Pirates at a possible disadvantage because he isn’t pitching healthy enough to be productive.
“The fact that I can get back on the mound healthy is what I’m going for. Obviously if it’s like the other night, I can’t take the mound,” Burnett said. “I won’t feel right. If I’m not at a level where I can compete the way I need to compete and stay within myself, where it’s not affecting me as a player and as a human on the field, then I won’t.”