ST. LOUIS — A.J. Burnett threw his latest sim game this afternoon at Busch Stadium, going six innings and about 90 pitches against live batters. The sim game took place in the heat of the afternoon, with the temperature in the mid-90s.
“I think it was a good test today, getting out here in the heat, throwing about six innings plus, 90 pitches plus,” Burnett said. “With the environment and the hitters in there, it went well. I survived. That’s what I wanted to get out of it. I wanted to get out and execute pitches, game-like, and that’s what we did.”
Burnett finished his outing with about 15 more pitches in the bullpen. He mixed up his pitches in the game, throwing about 55 fastballs, 20-25 curveballs, and 10-11 changeups. Burnett said that he feels good, and feels like he’s where he needs to be, although he didn’t have a target on when he could return. That could be determined after his next bullpen session on Sunday.
“I’m not getting paid to get our guys out, I know that,” Burnett joked. “I need to get on the mound.”
This is Burnett’s final year, but he’s not focusing on that, nor the plan of trying to get back out there for one more start.
“I’m not looking at it as me. I’m looking at it as getting back to healthy to help our team,” Burnett said. “I came here to help us win, and I can’t do that on the DL, obviously.”
Fortunately, things are looking good for Burnett. He said he’s without pain. His stuff looked good in the sim game, and he was comfortable mixing up his pitches. He’s up to six innings, and with his bullpen work added in, he went over 100 pitches today. There’s no date for his return yet, but it looks like Burnett could be close to a return.
“I expect to be throwing soon for the Pirates, because I feel great,” Burnett said.
**Gregory Polanco has been in a bit of a mini-slump lately, going 0-for-21 in his last five games. Hurdle believes this is a bit of misfortune, as Polanco continues hitting the ball well.
“He has hit a number of balls hard throughout this stretch, and not gotten a hit,” Hurdle said. “So there have no been hits. I think he’s done a pretty good professional job of not letting it drag him anywhere.”
Hurdle is right on the hard contact, as shown in the graphic below.
Polanco has been doing great the last two months, and was on fire in August. The encouraging sign is that, while he’s struggling recently, he’s still showing the same hard contact that led to his previous success. And according to Hurdle, he’s not letting the bad luck lately throw off his game. That’s a great sign for his chances of getting back on track and putting up better offensive numbers down the stretch.
**Starling Marte is batting fifth tonight as Clint Hurdle decided to shake up the lineup: “Giving [Walker] the night off,” Hurdle said of the move. “Like the energy with Harrison at the top. And then Marte has had some success there. Just change the look for him a little bit.” Marte has a career .798 OPS in the number five spot.
**Hurdle said that Sunday Night Baseball has turned into baseball’s equivalent of Monday Night Football. The Pirates have had several Sunday Night games, including this week. That will be followed by a 1:00 game the next day in Cincinnati. Hurdle said that will be a challenge for the team, but expects them to show up well: “We’ve gotten some [Sunday Night Baseball games] this year, which is good. And the challenge will be the one quick turnaround. We haven’t had to deal with is a game the following day at 1:00.”