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Pirates notebook: Burnett doesn't want minor league rehab assignment

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 5:18 p.m.
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett tracks down a ball hit by the Tigers' Omar Infante in the second inning Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett tracks down a ball hit by the Tigers' Omar Infante in the second inning Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at PNC Park.

A.J. Burnett, who has been out since June 9 with a strained right calf, does not want to go on a minor league rehab assignment before coming off the disabled list.

“I don't know why I'd need it,” Burnett said Wednesday. “I didn't hurt my arm.”

The right-hander said he felt fine after throwing a 55-pitch simulated game Tuesday at PNC Park. Burnett will throw a bullpen session Thursday morning.

If Burnett can persuade management he's fit to return to action, he might rejoin the starting rotation early next week.

Manager Clint Hurdle realizes Burnett would rather get back into the fray in the big leagues than tune up a time or two in the minors.

“Our concern is he returns to pitch and is as competitive as he needs to be,” Hurdle said. “The challenge is always, when these guys return from injury, how sharp are they going to be. And I haven't seen many players who've even gone out and rehabbed and come back sharp. It just doesn't happen.”

Hurdle paused.

“We'll talk,” he said. “We'll communicate through it.”

Tabata: Everyday player?

Righty Brandon Cumpton was sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis, and outfielder Jose Tabata was activated from the DL. Tabata had been out since May 25 with a strained left oblique.

“Every once in a while I feel it a little bit, but that's normal,” Tabata said. “It's a little tight sometimes, especially when I wake up in the morning. Right now I feel good.”

In nine rehab games with Indy, Tabata hit .179 (5 for 28).

“Dean (Treanor), the manager at Indy, told me the most important thing is how I'm feeling,” Tabata said. “At the beginning, I was a little scared and didn't want to swing (too hard). After a while he told me to start working on my swing. It's good — not 100 percent, but I feel like 95 percent.”

Pirates right fielders this year have produced a .227 batting average, a .292 on-base percentage and an .656 OPS, which all rank last in the National League.

Hurdle indicated Tabata will get a chance over the next few days to claim an everyday job — essentially displacing Travis Snider — if he can produce.

“We're going to give him every opportunity to get out there,” Hurdle said. “I'm not all caught up in the numbers part of it. I've got to see the fire, the energy and the passion. He definitely could be that guy. We're looking to put the most competitive team we can out there.”

Rest and rehab for McDonald

Righty James McDonald (shoulder) was examined Tuesday in Dallas by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Meister. Meister agreed with the Pirates' doctors, who did not discover structural damage.

“There's a little inflammation in there, a little fraying, tendinitis,” McDonald said. “(Meister) told me to not throw for two or three weeks and go from there. It (stinks) because I want to be on the field, but it was good news to hear that.”

McDonald had a relapse during his rehab stint because he wasn't shut down long enough and rushed back into action, he said.

Planet of the aches

The Pirates issued brief updates on a few other injured players:

• Right-hander Phil Irwin had ulnar transposition surgery on his right elbow Wednesday morning at Allegheny General Hospital. He is expected to miss about two weeks. On April 14, Irwin worked five innings and got a no-decision in a spot start against the Cincinnati Reds.

• Reliever Jared Hughes (shoulder inflammation) had no trouble Tuesday throwing a 35-pitch bullpen session. He will fly to Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., on Thursday to continue his return-to-pitch progression.

• Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness) had a platelet-rich plasma injection Monday and “is in the rest-and-treatment phase of his rehabilitation.”

• Righty Kyle McPherson (elbow) will be examined by orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews late next week. This will be McPherson's second visit to Andrews. On May 8, Andrews treated McPherson with a PRP injection.

The new kids

The Pirates signed two more draft picks: shortstop Adam Frazier (sixth round) and catcher Andrew Dennis (37th round). Both were assigned to short-season Single-A Jamestown.

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

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