BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- When Sean Burnett was at his lowest while rehabilitating from two arm operations, he received words of encouragement from Jim Leyland.
A rejuvenated Burnett allowed two hits in 4 2-3 scoreless innings Tuesday in a 3-1 victory over Leyland's Detroit Tigers.
Burnett was playing in a charity golf tournament sponsored by the Pirates in 2005 while he was recovering from reconstructive elbow and shoulder operations. Leyland, the Pirates manager from 1986-96 and then a scout with the St. Louis Cardinals, also was participating.
"He came up to me and told me to keep my head up because I had a bright future," Burnett said. "That meant a lot to me. I was really down because I couldn't pitch all year. To hear that from such a greatly respected baseball man as Jim Leyland was really important, and it helped keep me going."
Leyland remembered the conversation and was happy to see Burnett back to full health. Burnett has not allowed a run in 11 2-3 innings over three games.
"This was the type of pitcher he was as a rookie back in 2004 before he got hurt," Leyland said. "He looks all the way back to me. He really knows what he's doing. He's also a really great kid, and I'm glad to see him make it back.
"Hopefully, I've given the people making the decisions something to think about," Burnett said. "I came into spring training knowing I had no margin for error, and I've tried to be lights out right from the start. I feel like I've thrown the ball really well. I guess we'll see where it takes me."
Detroit starter Justin Verlander gave up three runs and five hits in four innings with two walks and four strikeouts. Last year's AL Rookie of the Year has an 8.31 ERA, allowing 12 runs in 13 innings. After pitching 186 innings during the regular season last year, Verlander was told to rest his arm.
"He worked a lot on his body over the winter to get stronger, but he didn't do a lot of throwing," Leyland said. "He hasn't always been real sharp this spring, and he didn't have his command or control today. He's a good pitcher, though, and he'll be ready to go when the regular season starts in two weeks.
Adam LaRoche, the Pirates' key offseason acquisition, hit his first home run spring training. LaRoche had a career-high 32 home runs for Atlanta last season.