Despite hernia, Burnett plans to keep pitching
PHILADELPHIA -- A.J. Burnett will need surgery at some point, but he said on Monday that he plans to pitch the rest of the season with an inguinal hernia.
Burnett received a cortisone injection on Monday and is scheduled to start on Wednesday.
"It's something that I think is manageable," Burnett said.
But what makes it manageable?
"I guess manageable [means] that I'm going to have to deal with it," he said. "Paying attention to it, knowing it's there, knowing what I can do to overdo it and knowing what I can do to keep it where it needs to be. I'm more of a go-getter, and I'm not really a 'take it easy' kind of guy, so it's going to be a test."
Burnett had to be pulled from Friday's start in the fifth inning because of discomfort, but he said, "I've pitched with worse. The other night was more of an uncertainty because I didn't know where it was coming from. I didn't know if it was hip, groin, whether I tweaked something or pulled something. Now that I know upstairs what I'm dealing with, I can deal with it a lot better."
Left-hander Cole Hamels pitched with the same injury in 2011 and went 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA in 32 appearances (31 starts), finishing fifth in National League Cy Young Award voting. He underwent surgery following that season.
In a perfect world, Burnett will perform similarly to Hamels in 2011 and be able to wait until the offseason to surgically repair the hernia, as recovery can take six to eight weeks. Burnett is confident he still can pitch the way he did the past couple of seasons with the Pirates, when he went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in 61 starts.
Burnett is 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts this season. In 16 innings he has allowed 17 hits, 11 runs (seven earned) and 14 walks, with 10 strikeouts.
"It could be a blessing in disguise and I pay attention more to my delivery," he said. "The two pitches [where] I felt it in my bullpen [session on Sunday] is when my timing was a tick off. I flew open early, or something was off. But when I nailed my delivery in the next 15, it was fine. I'm not worried about it now that today happened. I talked to the doctors and had my questions answered. 'How severe is it? Can it get really, really worse?'"
"It can get larger," he said. "But as far as pain-wise, they said it would be the same. Uncomfortable."
Surgery will come at some point, and he knows that, he just hopes it's not until after the season.