A.J. Burnett completed what Neal Huntington called a "simulated sim-game" Sunday morning. He threw the equivalent of five innings and 71 pitches in a bullpen session that did not include live hitters.
"He threw all three pitches effectively," Huntington said. "Curveball was good. Changeup was good for A.J., and the fastball showed life. ... A very positive next step in his progression."
For his part, Burnett said he threw without any pain and that his stuff was better than expected.
"I'm happy because what we did down there, I got a lot out of it as opposed to a regular sim game," Burnett said. "I won't say I could've pitched today...but maybe I could've pitched today."
Burnett is scheduled to throw a 75-pitch (actual) sim-game Friday in St. Louis.
Burnett is aiming to return by the Chicago series in mid-September, which Huntington said would be a "positive if that is the way it played out."
"But if we need a little bit more time, we'll take a little bit more time," Huntington added.
What happens to the rotation if/when Burnett returns?
As expected, Huntington didn't reveal much about whose spot Burnett might take if he does end up sliding back into the rotation.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Huntington said. "We got guys that deserve to be in the rotation. We'll have a challenging decision to make and one that we don't have to discuss publicly until we have an extra starter."
Don't expect Glasnow in Pittsburgh this year
Huntington made it clear that Tyler Glasnow is not currently part of the Pirates' roster expansion plans. Stressing the word not, the Pirates general manager said: "Right now he is not on our radar to come up here in September or October, because we still feel there is some development yet to go."
Triple-A numbers don't easily translate to majors, Huntington reminded the press, noting that the sudden calls for Glasnow's promotion remind him to the repeated questions about Gregory Polanco more than a year ago.
"We left the door open because he was doing some really good things," Huntington said. "But he continues to remind us that there are some things he needs to do."
So who will be called up?
Adding to the roster in September is tricky, Huntington explained: "As a general manager I walk that fine line between doing everything in my power to give Clint [Hurdle] as many weapons and as many tool sets as he needs to win a game. At the same time, there can be a point where you have too many guys."
In terms of what to expect, Huntington mentioned adding a catcher, a "couple of extra arms and a couple of extra bats."
"Most of the guys we bring up will be in limited roles," Huntington said. "Middle innings relievers, an emergency catcher, a pinch-hit opportunity."
The Pirates continue to actively look to add players via a waiver wire trade, Huntington said, but the market is tight and an "amazingly few" players actually made it to the team's claim slot.
"It's few and far between that made it to us," Huntington explained. "We've claimed some guys that we've actually gotten but haven't been able to work out a deal. Then there is a large majority of players that just aren't making it to us."