After A.J. Burnett left the Pirates to sign with Philadelphia last offseason, his signing with the Bucs to a one-year, $8.5 million deal came out of nowhere Friday afternoon. But Burnett seems to be looking toward the end of his career (as he has been for a year or so now), and he wants to hang up his cleats as a Pirate.
Burnett told reporters on Friday that he took less money to play in Pittsburgh because he wanted to play for a winning team, and because of the connection he felt to the Pirates organization. He also suggested he would retire after the 2015 season.
"It's about winning," he said. "I got one left. I want to be able to go out when I want, [and] I'm so lucky to have the opportunity to go out where I want. ... There ain't no other place I want to be."
Burnett said several times over the course of the conversation that his decision to return to Pittsburgh was "not about the money."
It sounds like the Pirates could be getting a pitcher who will finally be healthy. Burnett is hopeful the hernia issue that affected him last year (and for which he had offseason surgery) won't be an issue in 2015.
"I'm doing good," he said. "I had my surgery on the third of October. ... I got relief the day I got out of that operation."
Burnett plans to begin training next week, and figures to be ready for spring training. He said that the hernia wasn't particularly painful last season, but that it caused an "aggravated kind of grabbing" sensation that affected him to varying degrees on different days. It sounds like that won't bother him next year.
Meanwhile, it seems Burnett doesn't have any lingering resentments over the end of his previous Pirates tenure. Burnett said that the Bucs' decision to go with Gerrit Cole in Game 5 of the NLDS in 2013 is no longer an issue, and he expressed regret at how he dealt with the situation with Clint Hurdle.
"If I could do it all over again, I would handle it a little differently with him," he said.
Burnett's return was likely as surprising for his teammates as it was for us -- he didn't tell any of his friends on the team, including Jeff Locke, that he would be returning. "My phone was blowing up all day today," he said.
Neal Huntington, meanwhile, said Burnett approached the Pirates, not the other way around, and he echoed Burnett's claim that Burnett's decision wasn't primarily about money.
"It came together fairly quickly," said Huntington. "A.J. actually reached out to me not long after he became a true free agent. ... He made it clear that he wanted to do everything we could to make this work. Obviously, the man left a lot of money on the table to come back to Pittsburgh and take care of some unfinished business."
Huntington said the Burnett signing would not stop the Pirates from continuing to look for rotation help.