3:23pm: The Pirates have now released a statement to announce that Burnett has been diagnosed with a flexor strain in his right elbow. Burnett received a platelet-rich plasma injection, and is estimated time of return is four weeks, per the announcement.
2:46pm: Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that Burnett says he’s yet to even receive a diagnosis following his MRI.
AUG. 3, 1:44pm: FOX’s Jon Morosi reports (Twitter links) that Burnett received better news than he had hoped. Burnett has a strain in his right flexor tendon, but his ulnar collateral ligament is intact. He’ll undergo treatment with the hope of returning this season, per Morosi.
AUG. 2: After being placed on the 15-day DL with elbow inflammation on Friday, A.J. Burnett admitted that the injury may sideline him for the rest of the 2015 season. In an interview with MLB.com’s Tom Singer, Burnett predicted that his Monday appointment with Pirates doctors will reveal that he’s suffered damage to either his UCL or flexor tendon, yet the veteran righty has no plans to undergo surgery for either issue.
“It is difficult. I’m prepared for both…if I just need some rest or something more. In my mind, surgery is not an option. I’d built up some pain tolerance. It comes and goes, part of doing this 16 years. You figure out what you can and can’t do,” Burnett said. “It was just really bad on everything the other night. I never got loose, never got comfortable. We’ll find out tomorrow, when they look at it. I don’t expect it to go away, don’t expect it to get better.”
Burnett said he’d been dealing with some degree of elbow discomfort for years, though “it hasn’t been anything to worry about” until his start last Thursday. Given Burnett’s rough performance since the All-Star break (10.13 ERA over 16 innings), it could be that his injury has been bothering him for longer than just his most recent outing, or it could be that Burnett was simply regressing a bit after an outstanding first half.
While Burnett has ruled out surgery, he isn’t willing to return to mound unless he’s able to pitch effectively through the pain. He won’t try to tough it out just for the sake of coming back “if I can’t throw, or if I’m throwing what I was throwing the other night. I can’t do it to these guys.”
If the elbow injury indeed ends Burnett’s season, it will also mark the end of his 17-year career, as the veteran has already announced that he’ll be retiring once the 2015 campaign is over. Burnett went out on a high note, making his first All-Star team after posting a 2.11 ERA and 100 strikeouts (against 33 walks) over his first 119 1/3 innings. Even if the right-hander is done for the season, he’s already more than delivered on the one-year, $8.5MM deal he signed last winter to return to Pittsburgh.
The Pirates’ postseason chances will suffer a blow with Burnett out, though they still have Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano headlining a rotation that includes Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and the newly-acquired J.A. Happ.