For new Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett, it’s all about pain management.
If he doesn’t feel any pain, he’ll be OK. At least that’s the way Burnett will approach it while hoping to pitch this season — including Wednesday’s outing — with a small inguinal hernia (see story).
“I guess manageable is that I’m going to have to deal with it, is what it means,” Burnett said. “Paying attention to it, knowing it’s there, knowing what I can do to overdo it and knowing what I can do to keep it where it needs to be. I’m more of a go-getter and I’m not really a take it easy kind of guy, so it’s going to be a test.”
Burnett was diagnosed with the hernia following an ultrasound exam on Monday. Initially Burnett and the Phillies thought he injured his groin during Friday’s abbreviated outing against the Marlins. But after the exam the righty was given a good-news/bad-news scenario.
The bad news is Burnett will need surgery for his hernia. The good news is he can wait until the end of the season to have the surgery. In fact, Burnett said the hernia could actually help him pitch better.
“I’ve pitched with worse,” Burnett said. “I don't come out of games a lot. The other night was more of an uncertainty because I didn't know where it was coming from. I didn't know if it was hip, groin, whether I tweaked something or pulled something. Now that I know upstairs what I'm dealing with, I can deal with it a lot better.
“I threw yesterday and it was night and day better. It actually helped me stay within myself. That might be a blessing in disguise, you know?”
Burnett is 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts this season. He’s walked 14 and hit two batters in 16 innings, including six in each of his last starts. Burnett has never been known for having pinpoint control. He led the league in walks in 2009 when the Yankees won the World Series, and pitched a no-hitter for the Marlins in 2001 with nine walks.
However, Burnett’s walks per nine innings (7.9) have more than doubled since last season and his strikeouts per nine (5.6) have dropped dramatically.
But now that he is aware of his limitations, Burnett knows how to approach things. He had a cortisone shot on Monday and may have a few more when needed throughout the season. The hernia can get larger, Burnett said, but as long as he can manage the pain he’ll pitch.
“I'm going to go about Wednesday like nothing happened,” Burnett said. “It could be a blessing in disguise and I pay attention more to my delivery. I pay attention to what I'm doing out there. The two pitches I felt it in my bullpen is when my timing was a tick off. I flew open early or something was off. But when I nailed my delivery in the next 15, it was fine. I'm not worried about it now that today happened. I talked to the doctors and had my questions answered.”
Besides, Major League Baseball players, like most professional athletes, are privy to some of the best health care in the world.
“As far as pain wise, they said it would be the same – uncomfortable,” Burnett said. “The only thing you'd notice is visible. The lump. I don't have any of that right now. I'll go about my business and see how it goes.”