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Burnett, Barajas connect again with Pirates

| Sunday, June 17, 2012, 5:48 p.m.
The Pirates' Rod Barajas, left, congratulates pitcher Doug Slaten after the Pirates beat the Indians on Saturday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
The Pirates' Rod Barajas, left, congratulates pitcher Doug Slaten after the Pirates beat the Indians on Saturday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett winds up in the first inning Saturday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett winds up in the first inning Saturday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — After Saturday's win, Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett has won six straight starts for the first time since 2008, when he was with Toronto. The Blue Jays' catcher that year was Rod Barajas.

“I tell him every day how much fun it is to work with him again,” Burnett said. “I feel relaxed out there. I don't know what it is; something about seeing him out there makes me confident.”

Burnett (7-2) is the first Pirate to win six consecutive starts since Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek in 1990. In 1974, Dock Ellis won eight in a row.

Meek improving

General manager Neal Huntington said reliever Evan Meek is making strides at Triple-A Indianapolis.

“The consistency and velocity continues to get better,” Huntington said Sunday. “We're seeing that true, short power cut, which is a good sign. It means he's letting the ball go.”

Meek's velocity is up to 93 to 96 mph, about 5 mph better than earlier this season. That gives his pitches more movement.

Progress continues for Bell

In extended spring training, outfielder Josh Bell has resumed some baseball activities but is not yet running the bases.

He injured his knee April 23 during a game with Single-A West Virginia.

McPherson returns to action

Right-hander Kyle McPherson (shoulder inflammation) was activated off the minor league disabled list and assigned to Double-A Altoona. In his first start Saturday, he allowed one run and four hits in five innings.

“Our guys were very encouraged by what they saw,” Huntington said. “A little bit of rust on the fastball, but his command is fine. Same with the breaking ball. Used his off-speed stuff effectively. But most importantly, he looked like he felt good, felt strong,”

McPherson was the Pirates' minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2011.

Nunez has setback

Infielder Gustavo Nunez had a big setback in his rehab: Screws in his injured ankle caused irritation and were removed about six weeks ago.

“We had to stop the rehab process and let the bone heal, which is why he's so far behind,” Huntington said. “He's just starting to get back into some functional running activity.”

The Pirates claimed Nunez in December's Rule 5 draft.

‘No traction' in trade talks

The addition of the second wild card is keeping teams from deciding whether they are buyers or sellers.

“We've been engaged with other clubs for the last six weeks, but there's no traction anywhere,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We're not the only club looking for specific things. There are a lot of teams in the same situations.”

Hurdle and Huntington will meet in the next few days to reassess the Pirates' needs.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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