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Marlins' eyes on Burnett

 

By Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

 

A.J. Burnett will throw the most anticipated pitches of the Marlins' season today when he starts against minor-league hitters in an extended spring-training game in Jupiter.

 

Burnett, 27, hasn't pitched competitively since April 25, 2003. He underwent ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow four days later.

 

At noon on Field 2 at Roger Dean Stadium, the Marlins will get their first indication of what they can expect from their hard-throwing right-hander when he rejoins the rotation, projected for either June 2 or June 8.

 

Despite a sluggish offense, the Marlins are clinging to first place in the National League East, largely because of solid efforts from most of their starting pitchers, who have a combined ERA of 3.88, fourth in the NL.

 

With a healthy Burnett back in a rotation with right-handers Josh Beckett, Brad Penny and Carl Pavano and left-hander Dontrelle Willis, Florida has a better shot at defending its World Series title, manager Jack McKeon said.

 

"No question, he's a big key to the season,'' he said.

 

Burnett's return also will force a much-needed change to the pitching staff by forcing one of the starters into the bullpen, where middle relief has been inconsistent.

 

"We've got five starters. When A.J. comes back, somebody's got to go,'' pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal said.

 

That somebody figures to be left-hander Darren Oliver, who pitched well in his first start in April but struggled since. His 7.82 ERA is the only ERA among the starters more than 4.00.

 

Another candidate is Willis, who pitched effectively in relief during the playoffs six months ago. But Willis, who starts tonight in the first of three games against the Houston Astros, has been showing signs of the D-Train who won the National League's Rookie of the Year award in 2003.

 

He didn't allow a run in his first three starts but struggled in his next three. Last week, he threw Florida's first complete game of the season in Houston.

 

Although the Marlins are intrigued with the results they might get from Willis' unorthodox delivery out of the bullpen, they can't afford to keep letting Oliver squander his chances to prove he is an effective starter.

 

Burnett is 30-32 with a 3.86 ERA in 82 career games (80 starts) during parts of five seasons. He threw a no-hitter in San Diego in 2001. He hasn't won a game since Aug. 18, 2002, about the time he began developing elbow problems.

 

When he returns, the Marlins also shouldn't automatically expect to see the old A.J.

 

"It's going to be a little funky for him, a little foreign, but once he gets the feel for it he'll be on top of his game,'' said St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Matt Morris, who missed all of 1999 recovering from Tommy John surgery before going 3-3 in 2000 and 22-8 in 2001.

 

"You (might) wind up breaking some more scar tissue. You get your range and motion back, but the whole pitching aspect is still kind of foreign to you for taking that long a time off.''

 

Many Tommy John surgery patients don't regain the velocity they showed before their injury until the second year of their return. Burnett could be an exception.

 

Marlins hitters who have faced him in live batting practice during the past two weeks say he is throwing in the mid-90s, a few ticks off his pre-injury velocity.

 

"I think his velocity might be there,'' said Morris. "As far as throwing that down-and-away heater every time, you're a little inconsistent at first just because, one, from not throwing and, two, the elbow being a little stiff. He's got to learn to throw with that new elbow.''

 

For Morris, the initial challenge was trying not to concentrate too much on making his pitches.

 

"My first game back was against Arizona. Tony Womack hit a ground ball to first. I was like, 'Oh, I've got to cover the base,' " he said.

 

"You're so concentrated on your elbow and how it's going to feel and this pitch is going to be down and away that you forget some of the natural instincts. He's going to have to relearn the game, but it'll come back quick.''

 

joe_capozzi@pbpost.com

 

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Damn, I wish I could go out to see him pitch today. Can't wait to hear the reports.

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Marlins' eyes on Burnett

 

By Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

 

A.J. Burnett will throw the most anticipated pitches of the Marlins' season today when he starts against minor-league hitters in an extended spring-training game in Jupiter.

 

Burnett, 27, hasn't pitched competitively since April 25, 2003. He underwent ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow four days later.

 

At noon on Field 2 at Roger Dean Stadium, the Marlins will get their first indication of what they can expect from their hard-throwing right-hander when he rejoins the rotation, projected for either June 2 or June 8.

 

Despite a sluggish offense, the Marlins are clinging to first place in the National League East, largely because of solid efforts from most of their starting pitchers, who have a combined ERA of 3.88, fourth in the NL.

 

With a healthy Burnett back in a rotation with right-handers Josh Beckett, Brad Penny and Carl Pavano and left-hander Dontrelle Willis, Florida has a better shot at defending its World Series title, manager Jack McKeon said.

 

"No question, he's a big key to the season,'' he said.

 

Burnett's return also will force a much-needed change to the pitching staff by forcing one of the starters into the bullpen, where middle relief has been inconsistent.

 

"We've got five starters. When A.J. comes back, somebody's got to go,'' pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal said.

 

That somebody figures to be left-hander Darren Oliver, who pitched well in his first start in April but struggled since. His 7.82 ERA is the only ERA among the starters more than 4.00.

 

Another candidate is Willis, who pitched effectively in relief during the playoffs six months ago. But Willis, who starts tonight in the first of three games against the Houston Astros, has been showing signs of the D-Train who won the National League's Rookie of the Year award in 2003.

 

He didn't allow a run in his first three starts but struggled in his next three. Last week, he threw Florida's first complete game of the season in Houston.

 

Although the Marlins are intrigued with the results they might get from Willis' unorthodox delivery out of the bullpen, they can't afford to keep letting Oliver squander his chances to prove he is an effective starter.

 

Burnett is 30-32 with a 3.86 ERA in 82 career games (80 starts) during parts of five seasons. He threw a no-hitter in San Diego in 2001. He hasn't won a game since Aug. 18, 2002, about the time he began developing elbow problems.

 

When he returns, the Marlins also shouldn't automatically expect to see the old A.J.

 

"It's going to be a little funky for him, a little foreign, but once he gets the feel for it he'll be on top of his game,'' said St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Matt Morris, who missed all of 1999 recovering from Tommy John surgery before going 3-3 in 2000 and 22-8 in 2001.

 

"You (might) wind up breaking some more scar tissue. You get your range and motion back, but the whole pitching aspect is still kind of foreign to you for taking that long a time off.''

 

Many Tommy John surgery patients don't regain the velocity they showed before their injury until the second year of their return. Burnett could be an exception.

 

Marlins hitters who have faced him in live batting practice during the past two weeks say he is throwing in the mid-90s, a few ticks off his pre-injury velocity.

 

"I think his velocity might be there,'' said Morris. "As far as throwing that down-and-away heater every time, you're a little inconsistent at first just because, one, from not throwing and, two, the elbow being a little stiff. He's got to learn to throw with that new elbow.''

 

For Morris, the initial challenge was trying not to concentrate too much on making his pitches.

 

"My first game back was against Arizona. Tony Womack hit a ground ball to first. I was like, 'Oh, I've got to cover the base,' " he said.

 

"You're so concentrated on your elbow and how it's going to feel and this pitch is going to be down and away that you forget some of the natural instincts. He's going to have to relearn the game, but it'll come back quick.''

 

joe_capozzi@pbpost.com

 

Link to Article

 

 

Damn, I wish I could go out to see him pitch today. Can't wait to hear the reports. I am looking forward to his return but I am not expecting him to pitch well this year. In fact I would not be surprised if he sports an ERA over 4.00 this year. I guess this is just cautious optimisim on my part. But this way if I am wrong it will be a pleasent surprise rather than a dissapointment. Not to say that you are expecting a lot from him when he returns, but I think a lot of people are. However, next season I really look forward to having him for a full season.

 

Which brings up another question, out of our 5 starters (Burnett, Penny, Beckett, Pavano, Willis) who do we have signed thru next year at least? Will we be able to keep all 5 for next season? I know I shouldn't be thinking about next season yet, but it makes for some comforting thoughts to knwo they will all be back next season.

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From what I saw, A.J. will have absolutely no trouble being awesome this year.

 

Don't expect it, but, well, do expect it.

From what you saw? I wouldn't make any Judgements until he has actually stood on the mound and thrown soem balls against Major League Hitters. Then we will see, I am hoping he comes back strong, stronger than before even, but I am not expecting him to do well right away.

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From what I saw, A.J. will have absolutely no trouble being awesome this year.

 

Don't expect it, but, well, do expect it.

From what you saw? I wouldn't make any Judgements until he has actually stood on the mound and thrown soem balls against Major League Hitters. Then we will see, I am hoping he comes back strong, stronger than before even, but I am not expecting him to do well right away. Lenny Harris isn't a major league hitter?

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From what I saw, A.J. will have absolutely no trouble being awesome this year.

 

Don't expect it, but, well, do expect it.

From what you saw? I wouldn't make any Judgements until he has actually stood on the mound and thrown soem balls against Major League Hitters. Then we will see, I am hoping he comes back strong, stronger than before even, but I am not expecting him to do well right away. Lenny Harris isn't a major league hitter? thats debatable

:lol

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