BRADENTON, Fla. -- A.J. Burnett, whose first career Opening Day assignment took a fouled bunt to the eye a year ago, is getting his mulligan.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle formally named Burnett his Opening Day starter on Wednesday -- nine days before the anniversary of the bunting mishap that fractured the pitcher's orbital bone and delayed his Pittsburgh debut until April 21.
Burnett will take the PNC Park mound on April 1 to face the Cubs. Following that Monday opener and an off-day, left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will start on April 3.
Hurdle did not identify his rotation beyond that, although James McDonald is viewed as the third definite member of the evolving quintet.
Grilli upset over media misinterpreting comments
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates closer Jason Grilli went on a brief rant Wednesday morning against "all these clueless bloggers," upset at the way new media misinterpreted comments in which he questioned the Pittsburgh front office's efforts at the last non-waiver Trade Deadline.
In a wide-ranging club preview on FOXsports.com, Grilli noted "the economics here" might have contributed to the Bucs having to pass on some of the higher-end names available last July, such as Justin Upton, Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino.
Grilli's complete remarks in the FOXsports.com piece:
"Players know the situation. To get a top-tier bat ... maybe the expectations were a little higher on our end. That's not a knock against who we got. It's just when you're winning, it's like, 'Dude, do you want to go for the gusto here? Do you want to go for the jugular? ... Pull the trigger. Do you want to win? Do you want to change?'
"As a player, it's like, 'Come on. Let's see. Give us the pieces.' … If anybody's going to do it, you'd think a team that hasn't won and is in first place would be the first to do it. Let's not wait."
Grilli's take was immediately taken as a rip-job of club brass by second-hand writers who picked up the story.
"Ridiculous. Why would I want to criticize the team, the place I'm at?" Grilli fumed. "Better yet, if I felt that way, why would I come back here? But you've got guys who have never been in here, they read someone else and they take stuff people say and twist it into whatever they want."
Obviously, the chance to be a first-time closer drew the 36-year-old Grilli, a free agent, back to Pittsburgh. However, he did pick the Bucs' offer of a $6.75 million package over other two-year tenders for slightly more money from both the Cubs and the Blue Jays.
• The pitching assignments have been set for Friday's 5 1/2-inning Black-Gold intrasquad game: Pitching two innings each will be Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Kris Johnson and Kyle Waldrop, with one-inning stints scheduled for Hunter Strickland, Erik Cordier and Vic Black.
No immediate word on weather Black will be pitching for the Gold team.
• Jeff Karstens spent the morning with a heat pack taped around his pitching shoulder, and again played some light catch. Karstens, who came down with a slight case of tendinitis in his right biceps area, "felt the same as he did [Tuesday], in a good way," manager Clint Hurdle said.
"He went through all his strength and conditioning, the whole routine," Hurdle elaborated. "He had a good day in that sense. We'll revisit it again [Thursday]."
"Neal's posse really did their homework. They picked up some young guys from different organizations, via trade or the waiver wire. And our own young kids are starting to come." -- Pitching coach Ray Searage, lauding GM Neal Huntington in reacting to new Pirates catcher Russell Martin's observation that he had never seen so many "live" arms in one Spring Training camp
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.