Burnett preps for opener in 5-4 loss to TwinsBaseball fans gather outside McKechnie Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Saturday, March 9, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- A.J. Burnett can joke about his control - or lack of it.
Burnett needed 45 pitches to get through four innings Saturday during the Pittsburgh Pirates' 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
''I said, 'What? Don't I normally have that after two innings?''' Burnett recalled.
He went back out for the fifth and wound up allowing two runs and two hits in 4 2-3 innings. Burnett hadn't pitched past the second in his first two spring training starts, when he ran up a 13.50 ERA over 3 1-3 innings.
''I felt a lot better than the last time out,'' he said.
The 36-year-old Burnett is preparing for the first opening-day start of his big leaguer career after going 16-10 last season.
''It's just good to get out there every five days because it is a process,'' Burnett said. ''We've been sitting for four months. This was obviously a lot sharper than my last two, and I expect the next one to be a lot sharper. Each time you get out there you're going to be more comfortable.''
Cole De Vries made his second start and fourth appearance of spring training for Minnesota and gave up one run - not earned - and one hit in three innings.
''I felt OK, not all that great, so I was more just working on concentrating harder to get my pitches down and do the mechanical things that I need to and that I know that I'll need to once the season starts and I'm in that same situation,'' De Vries said.
De Vries hasn't allowed an earned run in spring training this year. he was 5-5 with a 4.11 ERA last year in 16 starts and one relief appearance, and he's taking the approach that a rotation spot is his to lose.
''If the staff is looking at it as if it's not my spot, I want to make it as hard as I can on them,'' he said. ''And if it is my spot, I want to prove that there's no doubt that I deserve it.''
Minnesota's Ivan De Jesus Jr., who started at shortstop after Chase d'Arnaud was scratched because of a pregame thumb injury, hit a solo homer off Casey Fien in the fifth that tied the score 2-2. Eduardo Escobar doubled against Vin Mazzaro in the seventh and scored on Ray Olmedo's single.
Pittsburgh's Brad Hawpe hit a two-run, two-out single in the ninth off Anthony Slama. With runners on the corners, Virgil Vasquez retired Darren Ford on a groundout.
NOTES: Twins RF Darin Mastroianni returned after missing nine games because of a left hamstring strain. He went 2 for 3 with one RBI.