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Pirates have plan for righty Burnett's return

ST. LOUIS -- Shortly after giving his right elbow a final test in a bullpen session Sunday afternoon, A.J. Burnett approached manager Clint Hurdle's office in Busch Stadium to join the summit meeting already underway involving his status.

He tried the door. It was locked.

"Really? C'mon!" Burnett exclaimed.

Burnett may have been temporarily out of the office. But he will be back in the Pirates' rotation, and very soon.

General manager Neal Huntington, a part of the summit along with pitching coach Ray Searage and head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk, afterward was asked if the braintrust had a decision on Burnett's next step.

"We do. We just have to have some conversations with others impacted by it," Huntington said. "Those will take place in the next day or so. We'll let you know, next day or so."

A very intriguing stance, implying those conversations will be held with the other starters who likely will be pushed back to make room for Burnett. Huntington's use of the plural means multiple starters will be affected and, as good as he is when healthy, Burnett can still fill only one spot.

And he is healthy, five weeks after landing on the disabled list with tightness in the elbow. Sunday's bullpen session, two days after a 95-pitch simulated game, was the final confirmation.

"He said he feels good, feels healthy, feels strong, feels he can help this club," said Huntington, relaying Burnett's message in the meeting.

On a regular pitching schedule, Burnett would be able to merge back in on Wednesday, in the finale of the upcoming series in Cincinnati. That could provide an additional day of rest for left-hander J.A. Happ, who has been terrific and is now scheduled to face the Reds that day, as well as for the other starters in the rotation.

Great American Ball Park would provide an emotional stage for Burnett's return. It was there that he pulled the plug on himself on July 30 after allowing eight runs in 4 1/3 innings, saying the pain in the elbow had gotten to the point he could no longer pitch "the way I want to, the way I have to."

Touching all the bases

• First: Agent Scott Boras, looking out for his players, may have also chimed in on the Pirates' use of Gerrit Cole, who started here Sunday night with 173 2/3 innings, a dozen shy of his pro high, in 2013.

Huntington declined to address that directly, explaining, "The best way to put it is, we value and welcome input from everyone. We prefer to keep those conversations private."

• Second: Travis Ishikawa (lower back strain) is in Indianapolis for a quick Triple-A rehab assignment. He is eligible to come off the DL on Monday, and could rejoin the club in Cincinnati.

• Third: In which case, Ishikawa would be in Cincinnati hours before the rest of the Pirates, who expected to check into their hotel at about 3 a.m. after the flight following Sunday night's game. All except Jeff Locke -- Monday's scheduled starter in the 1 p.m. ET game flew ahead.

• Home: The Pirates on Sunday were playing only their eighth rubber game out of 30 three-game series; they had won four of the first seven.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast.
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, A.J. Burnett