Burnett, Jays avoid scare

Burnett's elbow checks out after injury scare

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Toronto's clubhouse was unusually quiet as team officials and players wanted to keep speculation to a minimum until they learned the extent of the injury suffered by A.J. Burnett.

After throwing just one pitch in the second inning against the Red Sox on Saturday, Burnett turned towards the dugout and signaled that he wanted to cut his outing short. Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and assistant trainer Dave Abraham met with Burnett on the mound to find out what the problem was.

Burnett, who signed a five-year, $55 million deal with Toronto in December, indicated that he was feeling soreness in his elbow. The right-hander was removed as a precaution after just 18 pitches, and then left the ballpark to undergo an MRI.

The results of the test will allow the team and its fans to let out a sigh of relief.

Burnett underwent a contrast MRI that showed no damage to the elbow. Due to the type of procedure, Burnett will need around five days to allow the contrast dye to dissipate before he resumes throwing activities.

"It'd be a big blow if it's something serious. We're hoping it's not," Toronto manager John Gibbons said before learning the result of the MRI. "Even if it's not something serious, it's still going to set him back a little bit anyway. We don't know for how long, but we're pulling for the kid."

As Burnett walked back to the clubhouse with Abraham, the infielders convened on the mound while left-hander Gustavo Chacin made his way from the bullpen. The group had reason to worry when Burnett indicated that his elbow was the source of the pain.

"I got there after A.J. was gone, but I asked Troy [Glaus], and he said it was in his elbow," Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "If it's in his elbow, that's scary."

One of the reasons a serious injury to Burnett's elbow would have been "scary" for Toronto is the fact that he had Tommy John surgery on the same elbow in 2003. He pitched in only four games that season for Florida.

"He's had that elbow reconstructed in the past, so he knows his body," Gibbons said. "He didn't try to throw a few more pitches, which was smart."

According to Arnsberg, however, Burnett did throw a few more pitches after feeling some soreness in the arm.

Arnsberg said that when he spoke with Burnett on the mound, the pitcher informed him that he had experience some minor pain during the first inning, when he allowed two runs on three hits. Burnett, who was originally scheduled to pitch five innings, decided to see if the soreness continued into the second inning. That's when he notified the coaches that there was a problem.

"He thought he might have felt something in the first inning, and then he went out in the second," Arnsberg said. "After his warmup pitches, he thought he'd try one pitch, and that's when things went astray."

Arnsberg said that he wouldn't have allowed Burnett to continue to throw if he knew the pitcher was experiencing pain. Burnett was scheduled to pitch five innings and throw approximately 80 pitches.

Bengie Molina, who was catching when Burnett was pitching, said that he didn't know the pitcher was feeling any pain in the first inning, either. Molina did note that he knew there was something wrong when Burnett fired his lone pitch in the second frame.

"I called for a fastball and he threw it, like hesitating, and [it looked] like a changeup," Molina said. "Then he got hurt. I don't know what the deal is right now. ... He said he was sore. He kept saying he was sore, he was sore."

If the injury develops into anything worse, Toronto will probably turn to Scott Downs, Pete Walker or Dustin McGowan as a temporary replacement in the rotation. When the Jays lost starters Roy Halladay and Ted Lilly last season, those three played important roles in keeping the staff intact.

"If it's something serious," Gibbons said, "we'll just have to make adjustments like we did last year."

For now, it looks like Burnett will be OK.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.