04/17/2002 5:57 pm ET
Burkett gets Saturday start
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
TORONTO -- John Burkett's side session Wednesday afternoon at SkyDome was more like an audition. The Red Sox righty needed to convince manager Grady Little that there was no need for him to make another rehab start in the minor leagues.
Mission accomplished. Shortly after Burkett's 35-pitch session, Little announced that the veteran -- who went on the disabled list March 26 with inflammation in his right shoulder -- will make his first official start in a Boston uniform Saturday night in Kansas City.
Burkett pitched 2 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket last Sunday, and struggled with his control.
But he wasn't worried. Especially after the way he threw Wednesday in a session that lasted roughly 35 pitches.
"I was putting my fastball pretty much wherever I wanted to," said Burkett, who signed with the Sox as a free agent in December. "I'm definitely ready."
Don't look for Burkett to pitch deep into the game.
"[Tim] Wakefield will back him up," said Little of the knuckleballer who pitched well in two starts filling in for Burkett. "[Burkett] will could go anywhere from three to four to five innings, he'll throw 50 to 55 pitches in the game."
Considering how antsy Burkett is getting, he'll settle for that modest pitch count.
"I want to pitch," said Burkett, who went 12-12 with an impressive 3.04 ERA for the Braves last season. "There's nothing worse than sitting around watching games. I watch enough games as it is. I only pitch 34, 35 starts a year."
At 37 years old, Burkett realizes every start is precious.
"Once you get in your mid '30s, and have a lot of innings under your belt, everybody has issues," said Burkett. "Sometimes it sets you back, sometimes you're able to get through it. It just so happens that this time it set me back. "
"I was in quite a bit of pain the last couple of times I threw in Spring Training. But [the team's medical staff] really put me on a good program. They really concentrated on my shoulder."
Was Burkett worried initially that the injury was going to be more severe?
"Any time you're hurt, and every pitch you throw it feels like there's a knife in your shoulder, you wonder if you're going to need surgery, so it's a relief," Burkett said. "I still don't know for sure, you never know. But I feel really confident about it and feel like I'm ready to go."
Ian Browne covers the Red Sox for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.