Bucs may need A.J. more than they care to admit

The Pirates continue to sit on A.J. Burnett’s fence, regarding his possible return to them as a luxury, taking the approach that he could put over the top a rotation that is already deep and solid.

Just the other day, GM Neal Huntington reiterated on 93.7-The Fan that if Burnett decided to return to the Pirates, he would “of all things, have to figure out the best way to deal with a surplus of pitching.”

However, is Burnett more indispensable than most — even fans who want him back primarily for his aura and clubhouse leadership — give him credit for?

In his two seasons with the Bucs, Burnett was one of five contributing starting pitchers. While he was the model of consistency, the other four have all been half-season wonders. The stellar 2013 Pittsburgh debuts of Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano obviously tweak the numbers, but regard these cumulative records for the 2012-13 quintet:

  • Burnett 26-21 [with 33 team wins in his starts]
  • Jeff Locke 11-10 [16 team wins]
  • James McDonald 14-12 [18]
  • Wandy Rodriguez 11-8 [14]
  • Charlie Morton 9-10 [14].
Pretty wide gap between A.J. and No. 2 (actually, No. 3, since No. 2 J-Mac is no longer on the team]. 


AJ would still be a very important and productive player for a push deeper into the playoffs and possibly World Series. He is healthy and it is amazing how some of these veterans pitch with less velocity than earlier in their career. They actually think and it makes them complete pitchers. Would like to see a revitalized Vernon Wells in the lineup as well.

Many good things have happened to the Pirates in the past two years but none bigger than AJ putting on the gold and black. One of the key cogs in the process of baseball coming alive once again in the city of the Corsairs.

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