Burnett passes simulated game test, continues progressing

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A.J. Burnett came through his 48-pitch simulated game just fine Tuesday morning, another encouraging sign that his return to the Pirates may come sooner rather than later.

The Pirates do not need a fifth starter until April 15 in San Francisco. Given the rough timetable laid out by the Pirates, their new right-hander will not return from the broken bone in his right eye socket until late April or early May.

Burnett has different ideas and is pushing for mid-April.

"He's got character," Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage said. "He's honest with me, but I have to be the pitching coach. He may not like some decisions we make as an organization for him, because he's chomping at the bit."

Burnett will throw a bullpen session on Thursday and then a minor-league game on Saturday, during which he'll likely throw 55 to 60 pitches. Pitch count will determine when Burnett is ready to be activated. He needs to build up to somewhere close to 100 pitches.

"Everything has to play out," Searage said. "We're just taking it one bullpen at a time and see how he progresses.

"It's not an arm injury, but we still have to protect his arm. We're going to do this the right way.

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