Notes: Burnett getting strong results
Right-hander feeling healthy compared to last season
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- As A.J. Burnett unleashed one pitch after another, the crowd inside Bright House Networks Field roared. The Blue Jays pitcher was hardly the source of the cheers, though.
The Phillies' Spring Training stadium stood beyond the left-field fence of the field that Burnett was pitching on at the Carpenter Complex, Philadelphia's Minor League facility. Instead of making the trip to Fort Myers, Fla., where the Jays were taking on the Twins on Friday, Burnett made his most recent start in a Triple-A game.
Over 5 2/3 shutout innings, the right-hander struck out seven, walked none and yielded four singles. Burnett's performance against Ottawa -- the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate -- was impressive, but he said it's hard sometimes to focus in a Minor League contest.
"With these clowns over here?" said a laughing Burnett, motioning to the visitors' dugout, which was filled with Toronto's Triple-A Syracuse SkyChiefs squad. "It's tough. The good thing is you know these guys. So you know they're playing hard behind you, but it's tough."
Including appearances in a "B" game and a Triple-A contest, Burnett has a 3.80 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 19 innings this spring. On Friday, Burnett said that his curveball and changeup were working well, but that he'll need to focus on his sinker during his next side session. He threw 65 pitches, including 48 for strikes.
"My sinker needs a little work," Burnett said. "We'll work in the next bullpen on getting that sinker running. It's a little flat right now. Besides that, I feel good, and that's the most important thing."
Burnett continues to emphasize how healthy and strong he feels heading into the regular season. It's a drastic difference over last spring, when Burnett suffered a right elbow injury and began the season on the disabled list. He landed on the DL twice in 2006 and missed more than two months as a result.
During the offseason, Burnett altered his training program, and it's a main reason why he believes he's feeling so great right now. Burnett didn't throw off a mound until Spring Training, and he slowly worked in his curveball after built up arm strength with his fastball.
"As far as stamina, strength and my mind, I'm where I need to be," said Burnett, who is tentatively scheduled to make his first start of the season against Detroit on April 4. "I really think starting everything up a little later really helped."
Follow the leader: After tallying his sixth strikeout on Friday, Burnett stepped off the mound and headed for the dugout. The rest of the players on the field did the same, and the fifth inning was over.
The problem? Burnett and the SkyChiefs had only recorded two outs in the frame. There was some confusion in the stands and some laughter in the dugouts, but the game went on without the officials mending the mistake.
"I've never seen that before -- never," Burnett said with a chuckle. "I just threw the pitch and it was a strike, and shoot, it felt like a good third strike for the third out. I guess they all followed me in. I don't know. Everybody was walking off at the same time. I'll take it -- save the pitch count."
On the mound: Right-hander Tomo Ohka was originally slated to start in a Triple-A game on Saturday, but the Blue Jays have altered his schedule. Ohka will now take the mound for a six-inning appearance against the Reds on Sunday in Dunedin. The Japan native is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in four games this spring and is in the running for a spot in Toronto's rotation.
Zaun skips bus ride: Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun's name was among those circled on the roster sheet inside the clubhouse at Knology Park, indicating that he'd be hitting the road to take on the Twins. Instead, Zaun stayed behind to catch Burnett, and the catcher also threw out a base stealer and added two singles in the Triple-A game.
Going yard: Russ Adams, who is penciled in as the starting second baseman at Triple-A, belted two home runs in Friday's game at the Carpenter Complex. Both shots came off right-hander Brett Myers, who is slated as Philadelphia's Opening Day starter.
Quotable: "Everybody was running off the field, so I did, too." -- Zaun, on the premature ending to the fifth inning on Friday
Coming up: Toronto right-hander Victor Zambrano (1-0, 0.93 ERA) will start when the Blue Jays take on the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla. Righty Casey Janssen (1-0, 1.17) is also scheduled to pitch for Toronto.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.