Pirates notebook: No curves for Burnett in first spring start

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 6:09 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — A.J. Burnett didn't see a single curveball listed when he and catcher Michael McKenry looked over the pitching plan for Burnett's spring training debut Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I'm just (throwing) fastball-changeup right now,” Burnett said. “When Mac and I went over the game plan, I was hoping to see a two (curveball) put down, but no. It's a gradual thing.”

Burnett worked two innings and was tagged for four runs (one earned) in the Pirates' 7-2 loss. The right-hander gave up two hits, got one strikeout and threw one wild pitch.

Along with having a limited arsenal, Burnett was the victim of sloppy defense. The Pirates made three errors over the first two innings.

“We've got to work on our composure during spring training, too,” Burnett said. “Things happen, and balls don't always bounce your way. Sometimes, you've got to make plays and make pitches.”

There were times in the second inning, when the Rays scored four runs, McKenry was tempted to deviate from Burnett's game plan.

“Of course I wanted to call the breaking ball,” McKenry said. “He threw a couple changeups out of sequence and did a good job with it. He threw one that really cut across the plate. He looked great. His arm's in great shape and the ball is moving a lot.”

Not bad for a 36-year-old who didn't throw his first side session until early in camp.

“A lot of these guys have been throwing bullpens since January,” Burnett said. “I don't throw mine until I get here. Each time out is going to be better.”

Martin still sore

Catcher Russell Martin (sore right shoulder) was out of action again Wednesday. He said he suffered the injury Sunday because he got a late start to pregame warmups with starting pitcher James McDonald.

“By the time I jumped in, he already was throwing from 90 feet,” Martin said. “My arm never got loose. I rushed my warmups.”

Martin said this is the first time he's had this kind of injury. He's expected to be back in action by this weekend.

Taillon set to start

Right-hander Jameson Taillon will start Thursday against the Red Sox. It will be his next-to-last outing with the Pirates before leaving to join Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

Big guys

Larry Broadway was listed as 6-feet-4, 230 pounds when he pitched at Triple-A Indianapolis just four years ago. Back then, he was one of the taller guys in the Pirates' system.

“I used to feel big in camp,” said Broadway, the Pirates director of minor league operations. “But then I walked by a few of our minor league guys — Nick Kingham (6-5, 229), Ryan Hafner (6-6, 213) and Matt Benedict (6-5, 229). These guys are huge horses.”

Under general manager Neal Huntington, the club has made an effort to draft tall power pitchers.

Many of the Pirates' top prospects look more like the Steel Curtain than a starting rotation. Taillon is 6-6, 237; Duke Welker is 6-7, 240; Luis Heredia is 6-6, 234; Hunter Strickland is 6-4, 220.

“When we play other teams, it really is a running joke, Taillon said.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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