PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander A.J. Burnett was scheduled to make his final rehab start at Double-A Altoona on Saturday, but he started for the Pirates because right-hander Kevin Correia was experiencing discomfort in his left side.
"We're not sure how Correia got hurt," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He complained of some stiffness and soreness, and with his injury history last year with his oblique, we wanted to get it checked out. We had an MRI done today, which came back clean, and we had him go out and get active and play long toss. And he threw inside today and he's functional and good to go.
"That being said, where we stood yesterday and through last night, you don't know if he can go out there and pitch in the game and give you an inning. We feel much more confident now. Correia threw, and he'll have tomorrow off, and if he feels good, we'll have the option of throwing him or Brad Lincoln on Monday."
Burnett began the season on the 15-day disabled list rehabbing from surgery on his right orbital bone, which he fractured during a bunting drill at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., on Feb. 29. He had surgery on March 2 in Pittsburgh and returned to Bradenton on March 9 to start his rehab program after spending a week at home in Maryland. Burnett made a total of three rehab starts, with the last one coming with Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday night.
"I think Burnett is more geared up to pitch here tonight than he would have been in Altoona," Hurdle stated. "He was going to do what he felt might be best for him to do, and I think there's a part of him that felt the best thing for him to do was pitch in the big leagues and that's the way it worked out."
Correia felt it was best to be careful with his discomfort.
"It felt real similar to what I did last year," Correia explained. "The MRI was clean, and that's basically all I wanted to know. I just didn't want to go out there and aggravate it ... and with it being a good MRI, I feel confident going out there and throwing now."
Barajas excited for Burnett's return to the hill
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates fans finally got to see right-hander A.J. Burnett on the mound Saturday in his start against St. Louis.
Burnett is coming back after sustaining a broken right orbital bone in Spring Training.
"We were hoping on Opening Day that he would be out there," Pirates catcher Rod Barajas said. "We had to wait a little bit longer, and we're all excited. We are excited for A.J.
"I know what he's capable of and I had an opportunity to catch him when he was doing pretty well, so we have the same expectations. We've all been waiting for this and we're real excited for him and for the team, because I think he's going to be a big part of this season and I think he's going to go out there and give us a chance to win."
Pirates option righty Hughes to Triple-A
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates optioned right-hander Jared Hughes to Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday to make room for A.J. Burnett on the roster.
Hughes tossed three innings in Friday night's 4-1 loss to the Cardinals and gave up four hits and two runs, one earned. He made a total of five appearances this season and was 0-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
"It's been a great opportunity and will continue to be when I get back here," Hughes said. "Right now, it's just whatever is best for the team I'm going to do."
Hughes had been serving as the long man in the Pittsburgh bullpen, and he will likely be back in that role at some point this season.
"It was one of those things where they had to do it, and they want me to come back," Hughes said.
The Pirates have posted a 2.73 ERA in their first 13 games and ranked fourth in the Majors entering Saturday in ERA behind Philadelphia (2.20), Texas (2.38) and Washington (2.38).
On Friday night at Class A Bradenton, right-hander Gerrit Cole struck out six batters in his first two innings and wound up striking out seven in five innings of work. He has received three no-decisions in his first three professional starts, striking out a total of 18 batters in 12 innings.
Shortstop Alen Hanson had two more hits for Class A West Virginia on Friday and leads the South Atlantic League with 26 hits. He also ranks second with a .797 slugging percentage and second with a 1.246 OPS.
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.