Burnett on track to make first Opening Day start

BRADENTON, Fla. -- A.J. Burnett threw his second bullpen session Thursday -- starting his long warmup for Opening Day.

Manager Clint Hurdle isn't yet ready to name his starter for Opening Day, still 45 days away, preferring to extend the suspense.

Not that there is much suspense about who eventually will get the nod.

Last year, the Pirates had planned for Burnett to pitch the opener, making that decision even before Burnett fouled a bunt off his eye only a few days following the finalization of his trade from the Yankees. Hurdle made that admission soon after Burnett was able to hook up with the rotation in late April.

So the 2012 honor trickled down to Erik Bedard -- who did pitch exceptionally in a 1-0 loss to the Phillies in PNC Park.

Add the fact that Burnett went on to emerge as the Bucs' ace, and there's little doubt he will get the ball against the Cubs on April 1 in The Bank. The only suspense is when Hurdle will make it official.

It will be the 15-year veteran's first Opening Day assignment, surprising for someone with his track record. But on his original team, the Marlins, he ranked behind Josh Beckett. With the 2007-08 Blue Jays, he was trumped by Roy Halladay. And he shared the 2009-11 Bombers rotation with CC Sabathia.