PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) – A.J. Burnett isn’t fazed by ugly pitching lines in spring training.
The Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander feels good about the way he’s throwing the ball and believes he’s on track to be ready for the start of the regular season.
The 38-year-old worked into the fifth inning, and the Pirates hit three homers Monday during a 7-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Burnett yielded five runs and three hits over 4 2-3 innings in his fourth start. He walked three and struck out five, building his pitch count to 78.
“The next one is going to be huge, because you get to that 100 mark no matter what,” Burnett said. “I think it’s going to be in a minor league game, so no matter what, I’ll get to that mark. That’s really more important than anything. … As long as that pitch count keeps building up, we’re going to be where we need to be,” said Burnett, who has a 6.39 ERA in 12 2-3 innings this spring.
Francisco Cervelli, Gorkys Hernandez and Pedro Florimon homered for the Pirates. Wilkin Castillo’s RBI single broke a 6-6 tie in the ninth inning.
Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer also worked 4 2-3 innings in his fourth appearance, allowing two runs and three hits. The right-hander walked four – including three straight batters with two outs in the fourth – and struck out four.
“I wasn’t in synch. I don’t really know why,” Archer said of the fourth-inning jam he escaped by fanning Burnett. “I’m trying not to focus on that so much as I got out of that inning and then came out the next inning and executed every single pith I threw.”
Archer may soon learn soon learn if he’ll be Tampa Bay’s opening day starter.
“I think we’re still figuring that out,” Archer said.
Alex Cobb initially was picked to start the opener but is sidelined with forearm tendinitis.
Rays reliever Grant Balfour made his spring training debut for the year, yielding a two-out solo homer to Hernandez in an otherwise encouraging one-inning outing. He left camp for 18 days to return home to Australia to be with his father, who died this month following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.
“I was happy with the way it went. I didn’t try to go out there and get too excited and pumped up,” Balfour said. “I really tried to stay under control and just work on a couple of things in my delivery.”
Pirates: Burnett threw 78 pitches, 46 strikes. Coach Dave Jauss, standing in for manager Clint Hurdle, liked what he saw. “He used all three pitches to both sides of the plate. He used his changeup to the righties, used his curve ball when he needed to. I thought he pitched really well,” Jauss said.
Rays: Archer originally was scheduled to pitch the second game of the season until Cobb got hurt. He and right-hander Jake Odorizzi are both slated to start minor league games on Saturday.
Rays manager Kevin Cash announced before the game that Asdrubal Cabrera will be the team’s starting shortstop. He also had been working at second base since joining the team on a $7.5 million, one-year contract he signed after splitting time between Cleveland and Washington last season. Nick Franklin and Tim Beckham also were competing for the job. The decision means Franklin and Logan Forsythe likely will platoon at second base.
The Pirates’ Arquimedes Caminero pitched two scoreless, giving up one hit and striking out four. “Caminero’s getting three pitches over the plate, and that’s what you have to do in the big leagues, no matter if you throw 98 (mph) or 88,” Jauss said. “He happens to throw 98, which really helps also, but he has three pitches.”
LONGORIA, SOUZA HIT
Pittsburgh’s Brad Lincoln hit Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria and Steven Souza Jr., with hit with pitches in fifth inning. Rays manager Kevin Cash said both players were fine.
Pirates: Right-hander Radhames Liz starts at home against Baltimore. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez starts for the Orioles.
Rays: Tuesday is the last of two off days during spring training. Right-hander Matt Andriese, who’s competing a spot in the pitching rotation, starts on road Wednesday against Minnesota.