A.J. set to “Loop” back into rotation

A.J. Burnett will get back on his horse, in ballplayer-speak, right where he dismounted.

The Pirates’ ace right-hander will come off the disabled list to start Sunday’s series finale here against the Cubs. It will be his first appearance since he went 8 1/3 innings in Wrigley Field for a 6-2 victory on June 8.

Five days after that victory, giving him a lifetime record of 5-0 in Wrigley Field, Burnett had to go on the DL with a Grade 1 calf-muscle tear suffered during routine running drills in PNC Park. 

He resumed throwing days later and, considering there was no injury to his arm, little thought was given to having him detour fir a Minor League rehab assignment prior to rejoining the rotation.

“His last bullpen, his timing and rhythm were really sharp. We didn’t see a need to have him throw 75 pitches in a rehab game,” manager clint Hurdle said. “His experience, the adrenaline of a packed house, his success here — all of it will combine to get him out there in a very competitive state.”

“Everything feels good. I’ve been doing a lot of PFP (pitchers fielding practice,” said Burnett, addressing the concern of being able to leave the mound for fielding plays.

The last time he threw a pith for them, the Pirates were in second place in the NL Central, trailing the Cardinals by three games. The bucs took a two-game division lead over St. Louis into Friday’s action.

“It’s been fun to watch. I’ve been involved every step of the way, and I can’t wait to contribute,” said Burnett, adding of making his comeback in Wrigley Field, “Any place would be good — but I do enjoy pitching here.”

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