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Burnett still undecided about '14 return

Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers against the Padres on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, at PNC Park.

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Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A.J. Burnett doesn't know whether he'll return to the Pirates in 2014, saying he is still “50-50” on continuing his baseball career or retiring and becoming a full-time family man.

A lot will depend on what happens in the next several weeks.

“I do want to go out with a bang, and I do want to go out a Pirate,” said Burnett, who will start Saturday against Cincinnati in the Pirates' second-to-last home game of the regular season.

Although he has tried not to get caught up in the idea this could be his last season, Burnett said it has been in the back of his mind all season.

The 36-year-old is in the final year of a five-year, $82.5 million deal signed with the Yankees in 2008. He mentioned during spring training the possibility of retiring following this season but since has been quiet on the subject.

Burnett was traded to the Pirates in February 2012 and finished last season tied for sixth in the National League in wins (16-10). It was his second-most victories since posting an 18-10 record with Toronto in 2008, and he flirted with a no-hitter against the Cubs, coming within four outs July 31, 2012.

This season, despite having his lowest ERA (3.43) since 2002, Burnett is 8-11. If he fails to reach double figures in wins, it will be for the first time since 2004.

As a policy, Neal Huntington doesn't discuss specific player contract negotiations but said, “We certainly have interest in A.J. returning to the Pirates.”

Burnett said he doesn't have “if...then” scenarios worked out. He has heard advice from people who say to make sure the team has to rip the uniform off you.

“You don't want to go home and regret it, so I see what they mean,” said Burnett, who made his major league debut in 1999 with the Marlins. “That's why it's been one start at a time for me. I've been more involved in these guys than myself for that reason, so I don't think about it. Just one day at a time, happy to be here.”

Burnett has said since joining the Pirates that his statistics mean less than helping the club return to the postseason for the first time since 1992.

Even before the Pirates snapped a three-game losing streak against the Padres on Thursday, Burnett said he believed they were in a good spot heading into the final 10 days of the regular season.

He also knows there's a lot more they can accomplish besides ending the longest losing streak in North American sports.

“I want to make an impact. I want to be known for something besides a .500 club. I think we all do,” Burnett said. “I think we all know we're better than that.”

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

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