Burnett's curveball put on hold for now
Injury to right index finger prior to camp to limit righty's arsenal
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The latest addition to A.J. Burnett's extensive list of injury tales includes a car door and a manicurist. Shortly before arriving in Florida for Spring Training, the Blue Jays pitcher had an unfortunate run-in with his vehicle, rendering his curveball unusable.
Burnett smashed his right hand while closing his car door, breaking the nail on his index finger. The nail hasn't healed enough to allow the pitcher to use his curve, and Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said it will probably be another 10 to 14 days before Burnett can begin throwing the pitch.
On Sunday afternoon, Burnett was forced to use only his fastball and changeup during his first start of the spring. It's normal for pitchers to limit their repertoire at this stage of Spring Training, but Burnett hasn't even been able to test his curve in bullpen sessions. The problem is that Burnett digs his index finger into the seams of the baseball to use his particular curve.
"He throws that spike curveball," Arnsberg explained. "He doesn't really feel good on the ball with a conventional curveball grip, so we're just kind of letting the nail grow. They can't even put a false nail on it to try and sugarcoat it. We've just got to wait for it to heal."
Arnsberg said that Burnett even visited a nail specialist -- a manicurist, not a doctor -- to see if there was anything he could do to speed up the healing process. It's yet another issue that's crept up for Burnett, who has landed on the disabled list 10 times, including four times in the past two years with the Jays, over nine big league seasons.
This minor injury isn't going to prevent Burnett from making his scheduled spring starts, but it still has him behind in terms of working on his signature pitch. Still, Arnsberg noted that Burnett didn't throw curves in a spring game until maybe his fourth start a year ago. Arnsberg added that a silver lining to the situation is that Burnett can focus on honing his changeup.
"It's giving him a chance to work on his other pitches," Arnsberg said. "But he's a little frustrated with his changeup right now. We'll probably go to the drawing board and see if we can play with the grip, or change the grip that he has, to try to get it where it's more usable. Most of his changeups today were non-factors."
In two innings of work against the Reds at Knology Park, Burnett surrended two runs on three hits with no strikeouts and one walk. The right-hander finished with 35 pitches (21 strikes), and he labored through a 24-pitch second inning. After the game, Burnett appeared frustrated, but he wasn't reading too much into a two-inning effort.
"What are you going to tell after two innings? I feel fine," Burnett said. "Command, that's what everybody is working on now, because it's early. Next time, I'll go three or four [innings], and the next time six or seven. I'm just building arm strength."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.