Burnett, Gorzelanny among 11 Bucs cut

Burnett, Gorzelanny among 11 Bucs cut

BRADENTON -- Left-handers Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny, two pitchers who were in competition for openings in the big league starting rotation, were among the 11 roster cuts made by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday morning.

Burnett, Gorzelanny, first baseman Brad Eldred, infielder/outfielder Yurendell DeCaster and outfielder Rajai Davis were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Six non-roster invitees, including infielders Jason Alfaro and Gookie Dawkins, catcher Carlos Maldonado and pitchers Ron Chiavacci, Nerio Rodriguez and Matt Whiteside, were reassigned to the Minor League camp.

With the moves Tuesday, the Pirates have 42 active players in camp. They must be down to 25 before the start of the season.

"We're just at that time of year where we've got 10 days or so left, and we need to get innings to the right people and start building up the guys who are going to be playing," said Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield.

Burnett, 23, spent the entire 2005 season on the disabled list while recovering from left elbow and left shoulder surgeries. Although Burnett had pitched well during his three Grapefruit League appearances, allowing two earned runs in six innings, the Pirates want him to get more innings at Triple-A before bringing him back to the big leagues.

"The end game is not the whether he makes the team April 1. The end game is that we want this guy to have a long career for the Pittsburgh Pirates," said Littlefield. "We think he can do that. He just needs a little more time to keep building things up and getting sharper after missing the time he did."

Burnett, who had hoped to earn a rotation spot this spring, sat quietly in front of his locker for 20-30 minutes after learning of the demotion. He appeared to be in better spirits after throwing a bullpen session as pitching coach Jim Colborn looked on.

"It was disappointing," said Burnett. "But you knew it was going to happen, most likely.

"Coming off of two surgeries, your chances of making the team coming out of Spring Training are almost none. I hung in here as long as I could. I didn't know if I would be up here this long."

Burnett was heartened by the fact that he pitched well and showed that his elbow and shoulder are sound.

"I've proven to myself that I am healthy. I think I've proven to them I'm healthy," said Burnett. "Now, I just have go down there and take care of my job."

Gorzelanny, 23, could also see the demotion coming. After spending most of last season at Double-A, the hard-throwing southpaw knew that he was a long shot to make a big league rotation.

"I wanted to try to show that I am ready. I believe I did that," said Gorzelanny, who posted a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings this spring. "It wasn't enough, but I am not going to let it get me down."

"I'm just waiting my turn," he added. "I know I am a little behind Zach [Duke] and Paul [Maholm] and Ollie [Perez]. But I know once my turn comes around I'm not going to let it go by."

Littlefield, noting the organization's improved depth at the top levels of the farm system, said he believes Gorzelanny, Burnett, Eldred, DeCaster and Davis all will contribute to the big league team in 2006.

"The players on our [40-man] roster are better players and closer to the big leagues," said Littlefield.

"All of these guys, I'm sure, are going to get an opportunity this year at some point. It's a better group. There's no doubt about it."

Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.