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Archive for Friday, May 2, 2003

Burnett questions management

May 2, 2003

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— Seeking to explain the elbow injury that ended his season, pitcher A.J. Burnett hinted Thursday that Florida Marlins management might have withheld information from him about his health -- angering general manager Larry Beinfest.

Burnett disputed the theory that manager Jeff Torborg and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg are to blame for overworking him. But the right-hander wonders about the role of the executives who took over the Marlins in early 2002.

"There's a rumor out there that our management had known there was a bone spur in my elbow upon arriving from the Montreal Expos to the Florida Marlins, and both Brad Arnsberg and Jeff Torborg were not told about this," Burnett said. "I'm sure if they were told about this, I would have been handled differently."

Beinfest said that was untrue.

"It is among the most outrageous, ridiculous statements and accusations that I've ever heard in this game," Beinfest said. "What was said (by Burnett) was that the new management was made aware of an existing injury and failed to tell the manager and the pitching coach. I find that to be unbelievable."

Burnett underwent reconstructive Tommy John surgery Tuesday to repair a torn elbow ligament, and he's expected to be sidelined 12-to-18 months. Renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews also removed the bone spur, which sent Burnett to the disabled list last August.

ESPN analysts Bobby Valentine and Harold Reynolds, among others, have questioned Burnett's workload. Last season he averaged 111 pitches per start, among the highest in the major leagues, and topped 120 pitches 10 times.

"I check those numbers, the pitch counts, constantly from the fourth inning on," Torborg said before Thursday night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. "We stay on top of that like you wouldn't believe."

Burnett said he wasn't told about the bone spur until August, and neither were Torborg or Arnsberg. But Burnett said the front office might have been aware of it earlier -- perhaps even during spring training 2002.

"When you have people who know I had something and didn't take an X-ray in spring training ... you kind of wonder about that," Burnett said. "I believe Skip and Arnie would have totally handled me differently had they known something was in my elbow."

Marlins team physician Dr. Dan Kanell said he and other club officials did not become aware of a problem with Burnett's elbow until August. Citing medical privacy issues, Kanell declined to discuss the history of Burnett's X-ray results, but the doctor said 30 percent of all major league pitchers have bone spurs.

"A bone spur is not necessarily a problem," Kanell said.

Beinfest, who was with the team Thursday in Phoenix, said Burnett's statements caught him by surprise.

"I have absolutely no idea what his intent nor his thought process was here," Beinfest said. "Why A.J. would perpetuate this rumor or where it came from, I have no idea."

Burnett said he believes he first tore the ligament six weeks ago, when a sore elbow sent him to the disabled list for the start of the season. He suspects the bone spur might date to 2001.

"I can remember a couple of years back just wondering if I had anything in there, maybe feeling a little thing in the back of my elbow," he said. "But it never bothered me until last August."

Burnett, 26, was 0-2 this season with a 4.70 ERA. He led the major leagues with five shutouts last year, when he went 12-9 with a 3.30 ERA.

Waiting to begin rehabilitation, Burnett is expected to rejoin the Marlins when they return home next week.

"He's going to walk into a clubhouse and a training room where the medical staff and training staff and management care about him, and he's going to have to confront this a little bit," Beinfest said. "I just find the whole thing to be unfortunate."

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