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Notes: Burnett heads to the bullpen

Notes: Burnett heads to the bullpen

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Sean Burnett is well aware that his chances of making the Pirates as a starter are slim. As a result, it appears that he is going to instead try his hand as a reliever.

Originally slotted to pitch multiple innings every five days -- as all the starting pitchers in camp are doing -- Burnett is now going to be used more frequently, and in shorter spurts.

"We've put him in the position where he can compete to make the club out of the 'pen," general manager Neal Huntington said. "It wouldn't be a matchup-lefty role, it would be a one-, two-inning lefty role that can then graduate to being something bigger and better."

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Burnett's new schedule included one inning of relief in Wednesday's game against Detroit, with his next appearance scheduled for Saturday. He will pitch one inning in that game as well.

"Right now we're set with our rotation, so we're looking to get him out of the bullpen and see how he bounces back," manager John Russell said. "Keep getting him out there. We'll see where he fits."

The transition from starter to reliever came out of a Spring Training meeting in which Burnett told Huntington and Russell that he would like to have a chance to make the team as a reliever. It's Burnett's belief that taking the relieving route would be more advantageous.

The argument he has made on the field has been quite convincing so far, as Burnett again showcased a rejuvenated command of his pitches on Wednesday in a scoreless inning of work.

"He's been throwing the ball really well," Russell said "He's worked awfully hard. You can tell he has a lot of determination right now."

Countdown to cuts: Though Huntington said that a few roster moves could come this weekend, expect the first round of cuts from Major League camp to fall early next week. With 38 pitchers in camp, the majority of those first cuts will be pitchers and catchers.

As of Wednesday, pitching schedules through Monday had been posted, and five pitchers -- Jonah Bayliss, Jesse Chavez, Daniel Moskos, Marino Salas and Josh Sharpless -- are not slated to pitch in any of the six games between Thursday and Monday. As a result, it would seem that they would be among the most likely to be sent down to Minor League camp next week.

Holding strong: Management continues to stand behind the rotation that has already been tentatively set. That rotation includes left-hander Zach Duke at the back end of it. The blessings on Duke come despite his ineffectiveness a year ago, and despite a shaky outing in his first spring appearance.

There has not been a rush to panic about Duke's spot since his outing last Saturday, during which Duke allowed four earned runs, including two home runs, in two innings of work. However, the door has been left open for another starter to challenge Duke for that rotation spot if the results don't improve as the month progresses.

"If we get deep into Spring Training and he's still struggling, then maybe we have to take a look at it," Huntington said. "But his bullpen after his outing -- he felt very good about it. They were able to target some things that Zach did well. They were able to target some things that Zach needs to work on."

Tickets, tickets! Individual tickets for regular season Pirates games will go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. ET, and may be purchased here at pirates.com. For the sixth straight season, ticket prices for Pirates home games remain the same.

Because of the expected high demand for tickets to the club's June 24-26 series against the Yankees, fans will be limited to purchasing no more than eight tickets per person for each of those three games.

Mac is back: Detroit manager and former Pittsburgh skipper Jim Leyland did not make the trip to Bradenton on Wednesday due to the fact that his team was playing a split-squad game back in Lakeland, Fla., at the same time. In Leyland's place, another former Pirates manager, Lloyd McClendon, took over the Tigers' managerial duties for the day.

Russell, who was the third-base coach during McClendon's tenure in Pittsburgh, stopped by to talk to the current Detroit hitting coach for a few minutes while the Tigers took batting practice.

Fun in the sun: For those in Bradenton over the weekend, Saturday will mark the third annual Champs Sports PirateFest, in which fans can enjoy games and autograph sessions with players. The festivities are scheduled from 10 a.m. ET to 1 p.m., and will take place in front of McKechnie Field.

On deck: Thursday's game against the Blue Jays will give lefty Damaso Marte his first opportunity to make a relief appearance this spring. Marte, who has worked back to full strength after battling the flu for the first week of camp, will pitch one inning against Toronto.

Making the start for the Pirates in the 1:05 p.m. ET game at McKechnie Field will be Tom Gorzelanny. The lefty will be followed by Duke, Jimmy Barthmaier, Casey Fossum, John Grabow and Marte. Toronto will start right-hander Dustin McGowan.

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

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