Burnett throws sim game, calls it 'positive day'

Burnett throws sim game, calls it 'positive day'

MIAMI -- Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett took another step toward a possible September return Tuesday afternoon at Marlins Park, throwing a two-inning simulated game.

Working his way back from a flexor strain in his right elbow, Burnett threw 35 fastballs and tossed another 20 pitches in the bullpen.

"It was a good step," Burnett said. "Everything felt better than it's felt in a long, long time, so that's a positive day."

Burnett said he hasn't felt any pain in his elbow since he began throwing five or six days after having a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection. The next step in his rehabilitation is a three-inning simulated game, scheduled for Sunday at PNC Park.

"Right now, I'm pulling back the reins as opposed to working through something. That's where I want to be. I'm in a good spot," Burnett said. "I'm going to be smart about it. If I need more time, I'll take more time.

"I'm very positive about today. It was a lot better than I expected. ... It's not a game, but you're getting extension, getting it out there, letting some balls go."

After receiving a PRP injection to aid his recovery on Aug. 3, Burnett said he was "100 percent sure" he would return to the mound for the Pirates this season. He has ruled out the idea of pitching out of the bullpen.

Manager Clint Hurdle said Monday he believes the 38-year-old right-hander's final season isn't over yet. How would the Pirates slot Burnett back into their pitching staff?

The Bucs will not use a six-man rotation, Hurdle said, unless they absolutely have to. Burnett could simply replace one of their current starters, or he could help the Pirates spread out their workload.

"We'll watch how the rotation continues to play out. It might be time to strengthen it in an area," Hurdle said Monday. "He very well could space it out for us. He could provide us with that buffer. He could provide us with very competitive innings late."

Around the horn
• Veteran third baseman Aramis Ramirez is "not quite" ready to play first base during a game. "Getting closer," Hurdle said, "but we've still got some work to do."

• Infielder Pedro Florimon cleared waivers and was assigned outright to Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. The Pirates designated Florimon for assignment on Aug. 19.

• The Pirates made a few notable Minor League promotions on Tuesday. Third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes, the Pirates' first-round compensation pick in this year's Draft, moved up to the short-season Class A West Virginia Black Bears. Hayes, the Bucs' No. 9 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, hit .333 for the Gulf Coast League Pirates.

The Pirates also promoted second-round Draft pick Kevin Kramer, who was hitting .305, from the Black Bears to the Class A West Virginia Power.

• Infielder Alen Hanson, the Pirates' No. 5 prospect, was placed on Triple-A Indianapolis' temporary inactive list Tuesday due to the birth of his child.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.