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Burnett, other ailing Bucs making progress

ST. LOUIS -- Right-hander Rob Scahill's three-inning rehab appearance on Tuesday night with Double-A Altoona opened a curious trail that somehow led back to A.J. Burnett.

Scahill has been on the disabled list since June 26 with tightness in his right forearm -- the same injury that in 2013 sidelined then-Pirates closer Jason Grilli for 44 days, and to which Burnett explicitly compared his own injury after getting the results of his Aug. 3 MRI.

Optimistic that he'll be able to return and help the Bucs this season, Burnett had said, "Guys come back from this. Grilli had it and came back strong."

Officially, however, Burnett's injury has been classified as inflammation in his right elbow. And there lies the intrigue, because a recovery schedule similar to that of both Grilli and Scahill would have Burnett back on a mound in mid-September.

Manager Clint Hurdle doesn't feel that he has the background to clarify the situation.

"The similarities [between Grilli and Burnett] were the age of the men and the area of inflammation and discomfort," Hurdle said. "We didn't think A.J.'s was as complicated or as severe. Based on the person, the muscle structure -- they all can be a little different."

Burnett continues to make steady progress, on Wednesday playing catch on flat ground at a greater distance and afterward saying, "It's going well. Better."

"The trainers feel he is in a good place and making progress," Hurdle said.

As for other healing Bucs:

• Third baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer each played seven innings on Tuesday in the first game of their Triple-A rehab assignments, and both sat out Indianapolis' afternoon game on Wednesday, as planned.

"They had a workday," Hurdle said, "and [Indianapolis batting coach] Butch Wynegar texted me that both felt good and will be ready to go [on Thursday]."

• Right-hander Vance Worley has accepted being outrighted to Indianapolis but hasn't yet joined the Indians. When he does, "There will be a return-to-pitch program," Hurdle said.

"I don't have specifics yet," Hurdle added, "but it's not like we can run him out there for five innings, based on the time down. We'll probably get him a couple of 'pens, then a one-inning turn, then give him multiple innings and build from there."

Francisco Liriano will have the staff's attention during his start against the Cardinals on Thursday night, five days after feeling a twinge in his right side during an ineffective three-inning outing against the Dodgers.

Liriano went through a 34-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday and "seems fine, did it without complication," said Hurdle. "We'll keep an eye on him and see where it takes us."

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, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Rob Scahill