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Sean Burnett Demoted

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My apologies, again, for the infrequent updates; I hadn't touched a computer since my last post until now. I'll be back on the West Coast in a couple days, in time for the start of the Pirates' season, and updates will be more regular then. Anyway, Sean Burnett is peeved about being sent to the minors:

"I'm furious," he said yesterday by phone from Wellington, Fla., where his first child was born Thursday. "It's frustrating and disappointing. I really thought I had a chance of making this team. And to hear the reasons they gave me -- or more like the excuses they made up -- they didn't really give me a chance."

There's a lot to be said in Burnett's defense here - that it's probably good that he's angry, that he really did put up good numbers this Spring, that the injuries he's suffered in his career are not his fault and must be feeding his frustration, and so on.

Still, though, as a fan, these sorts of comments irk me a little. Burnett was a first-round draft pick nearly eight years ago, and has done next to nothing to justify the enormous bonus he received at the time. His performances the past two years have been dreadful. (Again, the poor performances were probably mostly the result of his injuries and therefore not really his fault, but still.) And now he's whining about not making the team despite having absolutely nothing to recommend him but a few good spring innings.

Spring training stats don't matter. They simply don't. It's probably not realistic to hope that much more than a sliver of Burnett's spring performance is reality, and Neal Huntington's concerns about Burnett's resiliency are well founded. If Burnett would like to rejoin the Pirates after two horrible years in AAA, he needs to earn his spot by pitching well in far more than a handful of innings.

In the meantime, Evan Meek, Phil Dumatrait and Franquelis Osoria all made the team. The Pirates had a vested interest in all of them making the team, since they would risk losing any of them if they cut them (Meek's a Rule 5 guy, and Dumatrait and Osoria are out of options). And Osoria, who pitched competently in 28 innings for the Bucs last year, is pretty close to being an incumbent anyway.

For a team in the Pirates' position, keeping someone like Meek is usually a good idea - the last few spots in their bullpen don't look great whether they take someone like Meek or someone like Burnett or Hector Carrasco, so why throw away Meek, who could turn out to be pretty helpful eventually, just to have Burnett or Carrasco on the team? Meek pitched pretty well this spring, with the high strikeout and walk totals we'd expect from his minor league performance record. Again, spring stats don't matter, but Meek didn't do anything to cast doubt.

Burnett's right to note, as he does in the article linked above, that the Pirates probably have other considerations in mind other than just selecting the best 12 pitchers. (He's wrong that he's among the best 12 pitchers, but that's another story.) A season is 162 games long, and this team, with its shaky pitching staff, could use 25 or so pitchers over the course of the season. If they have to send Meek back to Tampa, that's one less pitcher they have to fill those 25 spots.

I'm less clear on what the team sees in Dumatrait, who was terrible last year; even granting that the Bucs might need 25 pitchers this year, eventually you have to ask whether dumping someone like Dumatrait really matters. If it turns out you need an extra guy, I think the waiver wire might well be a better place to find one anyway.

Actually, the guy who has the strongest cause to feel left out here is Carrasco, who quietly pitched just as well as Burnett did and has a record of major league success in the not-too-distant past.