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Tuesday, April 29
Updated: May 1, 8:44 PM ET
Marlins pitcher begins 12-to-18-month recovery

Associated Press

MIAMI -- Florida Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett won't pitch again this year, and he might miss next season, too.

A.J. Burnett

Burnett underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery Tuesday after renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews found the ulnar collateral ligament in Burnett's throwing arm fully torn. A full recovery is expected, but it's projected to take 12-to-18 months.

The surgery in Birmingham, Ala., took less than 90 minutes. Burnett will likely return Wednesday to South Florida to begin a long, arduous rehabilitation.

With Burnett in Birmingham were his father, Bill, and his agent, Darek Braunecker.

"A.J. has been a warrior through this," Braunecker said. "If there are emotions, he's not showing them. He held his head up high and understands that, unfortunat ely, this is part of the profession."

Burnett, whose 97-mph fastball helped him lead the major leagues last year with five shutouts, felt pain in his elbow following a start Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the third time since August that elbow trouble sent him to the disabled list.

Burnett was shocked when an examination Monday revealed ligament damage, Braunecker said. The injury apparently occurred Friday, when Burnett's pitches topped out at 95 mph.

"The doctor marveled at A.J.'s toughness and pain threshold," Braunecker said. "He said it was probably one of the more remarkable things he's seen in medicine -- A.J. throwing as hard as he was with a completely torn ligament in his elbow."

Andrews used a tendon behind Burnett's knee to reattach the torn ligament. The surgeon also removed a bone spur in the elbow.

Burnett is expected to start throwing in about four months. He'll try to model his comeback after such pitchers like John Smoltz, Matt Morris and Kerry Wood, all of whom returned from Tommy John surgery.

Braunecker said Burnett doesn't fault the Marlins for the way they handled him. He pitched 204 innings last season, when he went 12-9 with a 3.30 ERA, and threw 111 pitches in his final start Friday.

"By no means are we laying blame on anybody,'' Braunecker said. "It's just an unfortunate occurrence. It happened. I know the Marlins have had nothing but his best interests in mind."

Burnett, 26, was 0-2 in four starts this season with a 4.70 ERA and 18 walks in 23 innings. Burnett, who threw a no-hitter in 2001, lost in arbitration in February and has a one-year, $2.5 million contract.

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