Not long after word came that left-hander Cole Hamels won't start the season on time because of a shoulder injury, reporter Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly said the Philadelphia Phillies had signed right-hander A.J. Burnett to a one-year contract. The deal is worth $16 million, and it was first reported by Hayden Balgavy of KTHV-TV in Little Rock, Ark., Burnett's home town. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports later confirmed the money.
Burnett, who just turned 37, finished 2013 with a 3.30 ERA ans 209 strikeouts in 191 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He's made 370 starts in his 15-season career. Burnett's getting older, but his hit rate continues to drop, and his strikeout rate was the highest of his career in 2013.
The Phillies landing Burnett puts an official end to a seemingly awkward offseason for Burnett in which he reportedly expressed a desire to retire if he didn't return to the Pirates — before apparently changing his mind. In 2013, he helped lead the Bucs to the playoffs for the first time since 1992 and was intrical in fomenting a new attitude. Burnett spent the past two seasons in Pittsburgh after signing an $82.5 million deal with the Yankees before the 2009 season. The Bucs are a lot stronger than they used to be, but Burnett's loss will be tough to handle. It certainly will be irritating, losing him to their dreaded in-state rivals. At least the Phillies are in a different division — and at least the Pirates will have Gerrit Cole all season this time.
The Phillies continue to make moves like a team that thinks it will content in the NL East, even though they lost 89 games a season ago and 81 the season before. They've also added Marlon Byrd (another big part, down the stretch and into the playoffs, for the Bucs in 2013), and they brought back Bobby Abreu, another former Phillies player, after he sat out the 2013 season. He's about to turn 40, but should help in part-time duty.
Burnett is a good signing for the Phillies, even if they don't contend all season. His salary is not a bargain, but it's affordable and his contract is tradable. The news with Hamels is alarming, though, for the short and long term.
Via CSN Philly:
Hamels spoke to reporters late Wednesday morning, the day before the first official workout for pitchers and catchers.
“I just wanted to be up front with everyone,” Hamels said. “I am behind schedule in my throwing program. In November/December when I started my throwing program again, I felt discomfort in my shoulder. I talked to our trainers and saw Dr. [Michael] Ciccotti and he diagnosed a little tendinitis. “I didn’t pick up throwing again until January, so right now I’m in the middle stages of my [offseason] throwing program, which doesn’t allow me to throw bullpens at the moment. Don’t feel alarmed. I’m at the point where I feel healthy now. I’m just trying to build strength and stamina.”
Hamels did not have an MRI after feeling the discomfort in November. He said team medical personnel did not believe the issue was serious enough to require one.
Hamels says not to worry, but anytime someone says "shoulder," it's reasonable to do so anyway. Still, the Phillies also have Cliff Lee, the ever-present Kyle Kendrick and Miguel Gonzalez in the rotation. It's a good group with Burnett and Hamels, but kind of scary without Hamels.
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- Cole Hamels
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