Pirates Notebook: Demotion has Burnett 'furious'

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The final makeups of the Pirates' and Class AAA Indianapolis' starting rotations became much clearer yesterday, and Sean Burnett was none too happy to learn he'll be a member of the latter.

The left-hander was one of three pitchers the Pirates sent to their minor-league camp yesterday morning, along with left-hander Shane Youman and right-hander Kevin Gryboski.

Never mind that Burnett had a great major-league camp. In 11 1/3 innings, he allowed five hits and no earned runs.

"I'm furious, frustrated," Burnett said. "I threw the [stuffing] out of the ball and I thought maybe I had a chance, but it's a numbers thing right now."

The key number is five -- as in the number of starters in the Pirates' rotation. Those five are set now -- Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm, Tony Armas Jr. and Tom Gorzelanny.

Gorzelanny this spring has allowed 17 hits, 11 walks and 16 earned runs in 15 innings. But the Pirates prefer to look at his 3.25 earned run average after the All-Star break last season.

"We saw a lot of very positive things when he came to the big leagues last year," manager Jim Tracy said. "He had some very special moments."

That didn't lessen Burnett's displeasure.

"I thought it would be a competition and may the best guy win," Burnett said. "Unfortunately in this business, that's not how it works. It's definitely tough knowing you outpitched somebody or the talent level's the same and it was your job three years ago."

Burnett was in the Pirates' rotation in 2004, but Tommy John surgery on his left elbow that September cost him the 2005 season. Last season at Indianapolis, he was 8-11 with a 5.16 ERA but showed he was healthy.

"When you get injuries, it opens the door for a couple people and they took advantage of it," Burnett said.

Left-handers Duke, Maholm and Gorzelanny walked through those doors in the past two seasons.

"I didn't know it was going to be this hard to get a job back when I was throwing the ball so well, but that's the way it goes. I'm the odd man out. It's a tough situation being friends [with Duke, Maholm and Gorzelanny], and me being the guy left out doesn't make it any easier, that's for sure.

"All I know is, I threw the ball as well as I could -- I threw the ball as well as anybody here -- so that's what I can leave with and go to [Indianapolis] and try to put the same numbers. I should be back pretty soon."

Burnett could start the season opener for Indianapolis against Columbus April 5.

Youman will join Burnett in the Indianapolis rotation. Right-handers Bryan Bullington and John Van Benschoten also will be in that rotation.

Buried treasure

Left-hander John Grabow still hasn't thrown off a mound, making it almost a lock that he'll begin the season on the disabled list. And with yesterday's cuts of Burnett and Youman, it seems Juan Perez and Damaso Marte will be the two left-handers in the bullpen opening day.

Ian Snell's consecutive scoreless inning streak ended at 11 yesterday in the Pirates' 13-7 win against Minnesota. The right-hander yielded seven hits, two walks and four runs and struck out six in five innings. The Pirates scored eight runs in the fourth inning after right fielder Brad Eldred hit a two-run home run -- his sixth -- over the scoreboard in left-center field in the second inning.

Center fielder Chris Duffy was inactive for a second day because of a stiff neck.


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