Dear Diary, 2/14: A.J. on target for Opening Day nod

A.J. Burnett is throwing his first bullpen session today in Pirate City — the beginning of his long warm-up for Opening Day.

Manager Clint Hurdle isn’t close to naming his starter for Opening Day, which is 45 days away, preferring to extend the suspense.

What suspense?

Last year, the Pirates had planned for Burnett to pitch the opener, making that decision even before A.J. fouled a bunt off his eye only a few days after his trade from the Yankees was finalized. Subsequently, the nod trickled down to Erik Bedard — who pitched exceptionally in the leadoff 1-0 loss to the Phillies in PNC Park.

Add the fact that Burnett went on to emerge as the Bucs’ ace, and there’s no doubt he will get the ball against the Cubs on April 1 in The Bank. The only suspense is when Hurdle will make it official.

It will be the 15-year veteran’s FIRST Opening Day assignment.

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