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.

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.”

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19 COMMENTS

  1. His comments are rather nice to hear. Confident but reasoned and willing to admit if it isnt right, he’s not gonna force it and throw with pain and suck.

  2. It seems that Clayton Richards has won a reprieve with the Cubs. I hope this guy doesn’t come back and bite us in the ass.

    • His reprieve consisted of one spot start while they were waiting for Haren to arrive and slot into the rotation. He will be back in AAA shortly.

      • Hey, if they wanna continue to roll with him im all for it. Despite some misguided PGH fans thinking he isnt awful, he is really not good. C’mon CHC, have some fun and roll the dice!

            • Whats the payoff? He’s really never been a good SP, and this year he’s striking out 4 per 9 while walking 2 per 9. Thats impressively not good.

              • just depth that we could use right now. I’d personally rather use Liz or Volstad in a pinch, but i’m not the GM

              • No….it’s not. Just more depth. Depth is good. We don’t have much right now. In the old days a 2-1 K/BB ratio wasn’t seen as being that bad. I’m not arguing that he’s good, in fact i’m not even arguing that I’d start him over Volstad, but you never know when that rusty screwdriver is the only one left in your toolbox

      • By the time I got a chance to read his comment you stole my reply. Basically I was going to say this followed by “So you want AJ to win the World Series and then have everyone think he’s dead?”

        • That would be amazing.

          The World Series is won, the team is lifting the trophy, but where’s AJ? He had thrown 8 shutout innings that game, and he collapsed as he approached the dugout from the effort, but he was able to get back up and sit on the bench to watch the 9th. Everyone figured he was fine. But now that the celebration had started, he wasn’t there. Hurdle thinks he glimpses him in the tunnel from the dugout, smiling knowingly, before he disappears into the shadows.

          Seven years pass, and AJ and his family haven’t been seen. They are presumed dead, as is the way of things. But Hurdle never forgot seeing him in the dugout after the game, smiling, and he knows AJ had done his work for Pittsburgh, and was content in that satisfaction to live unbothered with his family for the rest of his days, and no one else needed to know where he was or what had become of him.

          Because he was the hero Pittsburgh needed.

  3. Curious what the degree of strain is. Burnett’s pain tolerance and effort to push through it, while admirable, may have made the hopes of returning this year worse.

  4. If he can throw without his arm falling off, he will. If he can pitch more effectively than the worst rotation option, he’ll be on the bump. It’s just how he is, no one’s going to stop him. Especially, as you pointed out, Tim, since he doesn’t have to worry about next season.

    I hope, though, the strain is minor, and a bit of rest gets it back to good health so he doesn’t have to pitch through too much pain.

    • I think the potential return of AJ is good for the psyche of the team as well, having him around and rehabbing and working towards getting back on the mound is much better than a sad farewell this week. Imagine the jolt they will get if he returns to the mound at home and pitches well.

      • It also gives them a little more added motivation. Now they’re playing to get him back on the mound in meaningful games.

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