Burnett recovering quickly from major surgery

Updated: January 16, 2004, 1:15 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- A.J. Burnett could be in the Florida Marlins' pitching rotation when the season starts. The right-hander is recovering more quickly than expected from reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.

A.J. Burnett
Starting Pitcher
Florida Marlins
4 0 2 0 21 4.70

Burnett is tentatively scheduled to throw off a mound for the first time Thursday, and he expects to pitch in spring training for the World Series champions, starting around the second week of March.

Burnett made only four appearances last season before he underwent surgery April 29 to repair a fully torn ulnar collateral ligament

The 27-year-old pitcher was told not to expect to pitch again for 12 to 18 months. But he was examined two weeks ago by his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, and received a glowing report.

"I'm still taking the conservative approach right now," Burnett said. "Everything depends on how the arm reacts. But when Dr. Andrews said that, it just kind of reassured me that the elbow is fixed. It's strong."

The Marlins are handling Burnett cautiously and aren't counting on a return early in the season, which leaves the last spot in the five-man rotation open for the time being.

Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Carl Pavano and Dontrelle Willis are set to start.

After coming off a 12-9 campaign in 2002, Burnett was expected to assume the role of staff leader for the 2003 season. But while making his fourth start on April 25, he threw 111 pitches in only 5 2/3 innings.

After the outing, Burnett had the arm examined and tests showed ligament damage to his right elbow, prompting the sugery four days later.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press