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Shortened delivery pays off for Phillies' Burnett

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- If A.J. Burnett's outing against Atlanta was any indication, the hernia he's

hoping to avoid surgery for this season won't be too much of an issue.

The veteran right-hander had his best outing of the season in his fourth start, going seven

strong innings, giving up just three hits and two walks against five strikeouts, lowering his ERA

to 2.74 in Philadelphia's 1-0 win over the Braves Thursday. Only one runner made it past second base -- Braves first baseman Jason Heyward, who got to third base in the third inning with two outs.

He threw 101 pitches, 61 for strikes.

"It seems like it's getting better each time out," he said. "I was able to find a sinker today,

especially away righties, that's where the ground balls are coming from. I was down today and

that's a big reason for all the ground balls and keeping the defense busy out there, was being

down in the zone."

Burnett only managed 4 1/3 innings in his last outing, on April 11, before coming out with

groin pain that would be diagnosed a few days later as a small inguinal hernia. Credit his much-improved outing this time around to a shortened delivery, which both he and manager Ryne Sandberg noted afterward as a big help.

"It's going to be a blessing in disguise, I think," Burnett said. "It's always going to be

there, but it helps to stay within myself, and a couple of pitches that I tried to do too much,

you could tell it wasn't right. But every time I was simple and nice and easy, I was able to make

effective pitches."

The Phillies certainly need everything they can get out of Burnett, with one starter already

hurt in Cole Hamels and a young bullpen that's really struggling to start the season. If the 16-

year veteran can pitch like he did on Thursday afternoon, that's a huge relief for the club moving forward.
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