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Pirates notebook: Burnett not burned by fan criticism

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 5:45 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Pirates fans applaud A.J. Burnett as he is pulled in the seventh inning at PNC Park Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. Burnett gave up 2 runs in a 2-0 loss to the Padres.

Right-hander A.J. Burnett took some heat on the sports talk-radio shows for tweeting, “Lots of empty seats. Lots!” after 22,250 attended the Pirates' game Tuesday night against the Padres. It was the Pirates' 76th game this season at PNC Park; 21 of those games drew smaller crowds.

In addition to the angry callers, some fans lashed back at Burnett on Twitter. He took it in stride.

“Everybody's entitled to an opinion. That's what Twitter's for,” Burnett said. “The thing I got out of it is, there are a lot of people out there who care. We didn't play a couple good games. In no way whatsoever am I saying it's (the fans') fault.”

On Wednesday, the Pirates surpassed 2.1 million fans, the second-highest attendance in franchise history.

“I know that when this place is packed, it's electric,” said Burnett, who pitched before sellout crowd Opening Day. “I know how important this is to this city and this team. I made an observation, and I love the responses, whether they're good or bad. It shows people care. If it didn't mean a lot to me, I wouldn't have tweeted it.”

Martin gets day off

Russell Martin, mired in a 4-for-42 slump, was benched Wednesday. Manager Clint Hurdle said the reason was Martin's health, not his batting average.

“One of my biggest focuses is keeping (Martin) on the field,” Hurdle said. “His off day is more about him blocking an average of eight to 12 balls (per game). The wear and tear and the grind, there's no doubt it's probably challenged him in the batter's box. There's some fatigue for any catcher at this point in the season.”

Hurdle added that he wants to rest Martin on Thursday, too, so Martin is ready for the weekend series against the Reds.

The Pirates have been tracking how often their catchers sprawl to save balls in the dirt and prevent baserunners from advancing 90 feet to the next base.

“We're building another systems analysis plan,” Hurdle said. “We want to know how many 90s a catcher can recover by blocking a ball. (Martin) has been so far out in front of anything else I've seen. (Buster) Posey (of the Giants) is pretty good. (Yadier) Molina (of the Cardinals) is very good. You'd be hard-pressed to find another catcher who does as much dirt work as (Martin) has done.”

Scoreboard watching

Hurdle said it's pointless to tell his players not to check the scoreboard to see whether the Cardinals and Reds are winning.

“If you tell people don't so something, what are they going to do?” Hurdle said. “C'mon. It's there. The scoreboard's right behind the pitcher.”

Sometimes, though, it's easy to get so caught up in the game at hand that nothing else registers.

“I didn't even know Cincinnati and Houston were playing the other day until I checked the schedule the next day,” Hurdle said. “I didn't even see it on the board. I do know this: if you're looking in your rear-view mirror, you're not paying attention out your front windshield.”

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

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