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Big League Stew

A.J. Burnett’s fractured face would still be OK if National League used a DH

David Brown
Big League Stew

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A.J. Burnett has 37 career sacrifice bunts. (AP)

Before he rehabilitates his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, A.J. Burnett must rehabilitate his body after undergoing surgery to fix a fractured right orbital bone.

Burnett, who fouled a pitch off his face during batting practice Wednesday — ESPN has video — will have surgery Friday in Pittsburgh. At least it's not a pitching injury. Right?

This seems like a good time to bring up how pitchers batting is a bad idea and both leagues should use the designated hitter.

The American League adopted the DH in 1973, freeing its pitchers to fully concentrate on, well, pitching (aside from World Series appearances, that is). The NL has been stubborn about it, obviously, and we don't seem to be on the verge of change there. As a result, their pitchers spend valuable time practicing their hitting when they could be doing more pitcher-ly pursuits. The same goes for AL pitchers come interleague play.

No matter that it was a freak occurrence, if Burnett wasn't wasting time at the plate trying to bunt (bunting — there's another abomination!), he would be preparing for his first Grapefruit League appearance and not for surgery.

This obviously is not how Burnett or the Pirates wanted him to start his time in Pittsburgh, which acquired him with cash from the New York Yankees for prospects in late February. Projected as the ace of the staff, perhaps, Burnett is trying to recover from back-to-back seasons of having an ERA over 5.00. He's got two more years to go on an $82 million contract he signed with New York before the 2009 season — money he won't be earning for a while because of ... bunting practice.

Burnett has 37 career sacrifice bunts and 35 career hits (most of which came with the Marlins in the NL from 1999-2005), so he has an idea of what to do in the batter's box. But he still doesn't belong there. Batters do. Sometimes, occasionally, once in a blue moon, it's fun to watch a pitcher hit. And fewer times still, he actually produces something. Most of the time, they're up there flailing away. The beer vendor would appear to have about the same chance to get on base.

Before Bud Selig leaves the commissioner's office — if it ever happens — he ought to make it his mission to fully unite the leagues and make them play under the same rules. DHs for all! That way, the A.J. Burnetts of the future won't put their careers at risk messing around where they don't belong.

Big BLS h/t: Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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