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Bucs embrace addition of pitcher Burnett

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Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012
 

A.J. Burnett is endearing himself to his new teammates -- and he hasn't even joined them yet.

Burnett is expected to take a physical today and then await notification from Major League Baseball that the Pirates' deal to acquire the right-hander from the New York Yankees is complete. That approval should come Monday or Tuesday, after which Burnett can begin working out at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

"We're looking forward to him joining our team," said second baseman Neil Walker, who already has reported to spring training. Pitchers and catchers reported Saturday and have their first workout today. Full-squad workouts are scheduled to begin Friday.

"I think it's a great addition," Walker added, "and I think him coming from the A.L. East, pitching in such a competitive division, he's going to give us a very good chance to win every time he steps on the mound."

Walker described the mood among his teammates as "obviously very positive."

Walker said Burnett's experience -- the right-hander has been in the majors 13 seasons -- should help the Pirates' younger pitchers, including Charlie Morton and James McDonald, and lauded the front office for making the move.

"It seems they're trying to give us the best chance here and take advantage of anything they can, through free agency and trades, and they've made some good additions both on offense and on defense," Walker said. "I think there's a lot of optimism going into this spring training and a lot of good additions to our ball club."

The Pirates acquired Burnett on Friday, agreeing to take on $13 million in salary over the next two years in exchange for Class A prospects Diego Moreno, a reliever, and Exicardo Cayones, an outfielder. The Yankees will pay $20 million of the $33 million left on Burnett's contract.

When Burnett, 35, officially joins the Pirates, he will be reunited with catcher Rod Barajas, 36, who signed as a free agent in November. Burnett was 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA with Barajas catching most of his games while the two played for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008.

Morton, a righty who went 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA last season, had surgery in October to repair a torn labrum but hopes to be ready for opening day.

"My hip got cleared for everything," he said. "Now it's just making sure I get enough reps in off the mound, long toss and that stuff. I've been throwing since mid-December. I've been off the mound four times. I don't feel too far behind."

McDonald said the added competition with Burnett and left-hander Erik Bedard, who also signed during the offseason, will only make the team better.

"It's always good to have other starters that are good because you want to keep up with them," McDonald said. "I think that's good to have a lot of guys with a lot of good stuff -- have a friendly competition among each other."

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