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A.J. Burnett to start Opening Day for Pirates

02/21/2013 11:00 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

A.J. Burnett will start the Pirates' season opener against the Cubs on April 1.(AP)
This time last year, A.J. Burnett was just a few days into his tenure as a Pittsburgh Pirate, finally somewhat out of the spotlight after weeks of trade rumors and questions surrounding his status with the New York Yankees.

He’s back in the spotlight again Wednesday, but for a much more positive reason: he has been named as the Pirates’ No. 1 starter.

Manager Clint Hurdle announced late Wednesday that Burnett will get the ball on Opening Day, and will take the mound when the Pirates open the season by hosting the Chicago Cubs on April 1. When he does, he'll likely also be throwing to a familiar battery mate: catcher Russell Martin, who was a Yankees teammate of Burnett's in 2011 and signed a two-year deal with the Pirates this winter.

This will be the first time in Burnett’s career that he will get the Opening Day nod, but not the first time he has been considered; the 36-year-old right-hander was in line to start Pittsburgh’s opener last year, but fractured his orbital bone while bunting during an early-spring workout and was unable to pitch until April 21.

Still, after three tumultuous seasons in pinstripes and then his spring injury, Burnett rebounded to go 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 31 starts in 2012.

Hurdle also said that another 2012 acquisition, lefty Wandy Rodriguez, would start the second game of the season, but did not name anyone else to the rotation.

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