PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies finished last season with serious concerns about their rotation. Those concerns linger with Spring Training a little more than two weeks away.
So keep an eye on free-agent pitcher A.J. Burnett, who remains unsigned. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this week that Burnett intends to pitch this season, and is open to signing in a place other than Pittsburgh. Philadelphia has been interested in Burnett in the past, and he could be a fit at the right price.
Burnett, 37, went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA in 30 starts last season with the Pirates. He has links to the Phillies. Burnett shares the same agent as Cliff Lee, and he lives in Maryland, close to Phils assistant general manager Scott Proefrock. Their boys are friends.
Those things could help Burnett join the Phillies, although most importantly the finances must fit.
But Burnett would give Philadelphia more stability in the rotation behind Lee and Cole Hamels. Kyle Kendrick returns, but he posted a 6.45 ERA in his final 14 starts last season before finishing the season on the disabled list. Roberto Hernandez, who signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract in December, has a 5.19 ERA over 67 appearances (59 starts) the past three seasons.
At the moment, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Jonathan Pettibone are the top two contenders for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. The Phillies originally agreed to a $48 million contract to sign the Cuban star Gonzalez last summer, but that price dropped to $12 million following an issue with his physical.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has since reeled in any expectations for Gonzalez in 2014.
Amaro said Monday he has no Major League contract offers on the table, but that can change with a phone call or email.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com.