Notebook: Pirates to face Burnett, Lincoln as foes with Phillies

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, 9:42 a.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates will see two familiar faces Sunday when they play the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla.

Right-hander A.J. Burnett, who pitched the past two seasons with the Pirates, is scheduled to make his spring training debut. Former Pirates reliever Brad Lincoln also is set to work in the game.

In the first week of spring training, Burnett turned down an offer from the Pirates and signed with the Phillies as a free agent. Burnett said he chose Philadelphia because it is closer to his home in suburban Maryland.

“Nah, it won't feel weird or anything,” Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said of batting against Burnett. “It'll be just like facing (Paul) Maholm for the first time after he left, and I knew him a lot longer. It'll be like facing anybody else I've played with before.”

The Pirates have not announced their pitching assignments for Sunday. It could be Stolmy Pimentel, who is being stretched out as a starter early in camp even though he likely will make the team as a reliever.

The Pirates and Phillies will square off four times in Florida and also play two exhibition games at Citizens Bank Park before the start of the regular season.

After agreeing to his deal with the Phillies, Burnett was allowed to miss the first couple days of spring training camp. Even after reporting, Burnett is not spending all of his time in Clearwater.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Burnett left Phillies camp Sunday afternoon and flew to Maryland so he could help coach his son's basketball team. He arrived back in Florida around 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Upon further review

Manager Clint Hurdle was pleased with the details of the expanded instant replay and challenge system, which were spelled out Sunday night during a meeting with MLB officials.

“It's another step forward,” Hurdle said. “It's a historic step for the game.”

The new setup will be used in six Pirates games during spring training. During the season, each stadium will devote the same number of cameras to replay coverage. Managers will issue replay challenges verbally to the umpire.

“We're not out to trick anybody,” Hurdle said. “There's really no opportunity for gamesmanship or manipulating the rules. It's very black and white.”

Morel in, d'Arnaud out

The Pirates claimed third baseman Brent Morel off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. Morel, 26, was the Chicago White Sox's third-round pick in 2008. He spent most of last season at Triple-A Charlotte and hit .266. He was claimed off waivers by Toronto on Dec. 23.

To open a spot for Morel on the 40-man roster, infielder Chase d'Arnaud was designated for assignment. A fourth-round pick in 2008, d'Arnaud broke his left thumb during a spring training drill last year and was on the disabled list until the end of May. He appeared in 56 games for the Pirates over 2011-12.

Around the horn

Gaby Sanchez took grounders at third base with Pedro Alvarez on Monday during infield practice. Last week, Clint Barmes also got some work at third. “We need to have a Plan B and C in case something happens to Pedro,” Hurdle said. ... Closer Jason Grilli threw in the bullpen Monday and did some one-on-one work with a trainer. He will be held out of the first few Grapefruit League games. ... Andrew Lambo will start at first base for the Gold team, and Chris McGuiness will start there for the Black in an intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday at McKechnie Field. The starting outfielders for both teams include Jose Tabata, Gregory Polanco, Jaff Decker and Travis Ishikawa. ... Monday was the final day of big league camp at Pirate City. The Pirates will be based at McKechnie Field the rest of this spring while the minor leaguers work out at Pirate City.

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

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