Pitcher progressing post-Tommy John surgery

Updated: January 22, 2004, 4:47 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Florida Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett took another step in his recovery from reconstructive elbow surgery when he threw off a mound Thursday for the first time in nine months.

Burnett, who had liagament-replacement surgery April 28, said his rehabilitation is going so well that he hopes to rejoin Florida's rotation when the season starts.

A.J. Burnett

"I'm not going to rush it, but in a perfect world I could be ready by then," Burnett said after throwing 23 fastballs at 75 percent of his usual velocity in the Marlins bullpen at Pro Player Stadium.

"Today it went nice and easy. Nothing hurts. But I'm looking at the big picture. I'm ready to strike somebody out."

Burnett hasn't pitched since April 25 and hasn't won a game since August 2002. Team officials didn't rule out the possibility that he'll be ready to join the rotation when the team leaves spring training but said May is a more likely target.

"He is a power pitcher. He needs to be comfortable and obviously pain-free and also build up his stamina and strength," general manager Larry Beinfest said. "We always thought early- to mid-May was really an optimistic target for him. But I've also said in the past that if there's ever a guy to come back early from this, it's an A.J.-type guy."

Burnett went 12-9 in 2002, when he led the major leagues with five shutouts. He went 0-2 last season with a 4.70 ERA in four starts before being sidelined with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

He began throwing exercises in September and watched from the bench as his teammates won the World Series.

Burnett, who turned 27 on Jan. 3, has been working out every day, mainly with soft tosses and weight training. Beinfest said there are no plans yet to have Burnett pitch in spring training games.

"We are not going to rush A.J. Burnett," Beinfest said. "He's a young player with a great future ahead of him and there's absolutely no reason to rush him."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press