It's early, and it means nothing.

That's still the No. 1 combined theme of spring training at this stage, and it applies even though the Pirates' starting pitchers have put up some poor results, including A.J. Burnett's 11⁄3-inning bomb Monday in the 5-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at McKechnie Field.

Burnett was tagged for four runs, four hits, two walks and a hit batsman, running deep into most counts. His spring ERA through three starts: 13.50.

The catch: This game, like most in early March, come with pitchers being given specific areas on which to work. For Burnett on this day, he wasn't permitted to throw his curve — a potent pitch in his repertoire — except for 0-2 and 1-2 counts.

“There were times I wanted to, and I know times Mike wanted it,” Burnett said, referring to catcher Michael McKenry. “But you're here to do the things that get you the most ready for the season. I'm not worried about today. I'm worried about April 1.”

The Opening Day starter isn't the only one with unwieldy numbers. The Pirates' starters have allowed 20 earned runs in 24 innings for a 7.50 ERA. They've also walked 15.

But again, it's early, and it means nothing.

Sure enough, Wandy Rodriguez relieved Monday and tidily pitched three innings with one unearned run and two hits before leaving to join the Dominican Republic team for the World Baseball Classic.

Just like Burnett, he shrugged it off by saying he was “just working on location today.”

Burnett and Rodriguez have enough history, enough pedigree that even the manager can have the same reaction.

When Clint Hurdle went to the mound to take the ball from Burnett in mid-inning — never a comfortable moment for a pitcher, no matter the setting — Hurdle cracked a joke: “Well, look at it this way: You weren't pitching spring ball at all last year, so you're already way ahead of the program.”



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