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Pirates' Burnett to skip rehab assignment, pitch Sunday in Chicago

| Friday, July 5, 2013, 3:03 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett throws against the Tigers on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at PNC Park.

CHICAGO — Right-hander A.J. Burnett, who hasn't pitched since June 8 in Chicago, will start Sunday's game against the Cubs.

Burnett went on the disabled list June 13, retroactive to June 9, with a right calf strain. Because the injury wasn't to his throwing arm, neither Burnett nor the Pirates saw the need to send him on a rehab assignment.

“I've been throwing. My arm's in shape,” Burnett said. “I did a lot of stuff at home last week, a lot of (pitchers' fielding practice) and a lot of agility and passed every test.”

Manager Clint Hurdle said Burnett wouldn't be pitching Sunday if the team didn't think he was ready to go.

“He was able to stay involved and engaged throwing throughout this process with the exception of the first couple days,” Hurdle said. “The first bullpen was what we expected. The simulated game, I thought, we saw some good stuff, and the next bullpen, the timing and rhythm was really pretty sharp.

“I don't think we needed to send him down to throw 75 pitches in a rehab game. We feel confident his experience and the adrenaline here all combined will get him out there. And he won't be where he was when he came out, but I think he'll be in a very competitive state.”

Burnett will be followed in the rotation by Jeff Locke on Monday, Gerrit Cole on Tuesday and Francisco Liriano on Wednesday.

Burnett said it was fun to watch the Pirates' recent nine-game winning streak, even if he couldn't be a part of it. He's looking forward to contributing again, especially at Wrigley Field. Burnett is 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA in six career games at the ballpark.

On July 31, 2012, at Wrigley Field, he came within four outs of throwing a no-hitter. On June 8, he was lifted after giving up a two-run homer to Alfonso Soriano with one out in the ninth, but earned the win in a 6-2 victory.

“Any place would be good, but I do enjoy it (at Wrigley),” Burnett said.

All-Stars coming

The All-Star rosters will be revealed at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox, and Hurdle believes the Pirates have several players who deserve to be in the conversation, including Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Jeff Locke and Starling Marte.

“If you're going to talk about (Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig), why don't you talk about Marte?” Hurdle said. “Different context, but this guy's been here the whole half. …

“Somewhere, you have to talk about Locke. He deserves to be talked about. I don't know how realistic the chances are, but every manager that does this gets the numbers and will see Locke's name and see the numbers, so the conversation should be there.”

And to amend that

Hurdle provided his initial list of players he felt deserved to be considered for an All-Star spot.

After the Friday's game, in which Francisco Liriano threw a complete game in 6-2 win over the Cubs, Hurdle said he realized he made a mistake in leaving the left-hander off his list.

“That's one guy I felt bad about earlier today,” Hurdle said. “I was walking up the stairs thinking I hadn't brought up Liriano's name because I have brought it up with others. This is an exclamation point to what he's been doing — to finish that game off (Friday) and be in command throughout.”

Bucs sign 9 Dominican players

The Pirates signed nine players from the Dominican Republic, among them five pitchers, three infielders and one outfielder.

They are: Adrian Valerio (shortstop), Edison Lantigua (right fielder), Yunior Montero (right-hander), Junior Lopez (right-hander), Luis Perez (shortstop), Raul Siri (second baseman), Julian Villamar (right-hander), Cristian Mota (left-hander) and Ramon Garcia (right-hander).

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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