A.J. Burnett is planning to pitch in 2014, a source close to the free-agent pitcher confirmed to ESPN.com Tuesday.
Burnett, 37, went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA last season and led the Pittsburgh Pirates staff with 191 innings pitched and 209 strikeouts. In October, he told a Pittsburgh radio station that he would either return to the Pirates as a free agent this year or retire.
Burnett's decision to continue pitching adds another established arm to a crowded free-agent field that also includes Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm, Jason Hammel, Scott Baker and Chris Capuano, among numerous other starters who remain unsigned with spring training set to begin in mid-February.
It's uncertain whether Burnett still has his sights on Pittsburgh or is willing to consider other suitors. The Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles are among the other MLB clubs that have expressed varying degrees of interest in the veteran right-hander, according to sources.
Last week, Pirates president Frank Coonelly told ESPN.com that the team had "turned the page" on the likelihood of a return by Burnett. But Coonelly added that the Pirates were leaving the door open for the possibility of a reunion.
"We'd love to have A.J. back, but right now we've turned the page and we're heading to Bradenton (Fla.) thinking he's not going to be with us," Coonelly said. "But if he surprises us and calls up tomorrow and says he wants to pitch again, we'd love to have him."
In December, the Pirates declined to extend a $14.1 million qualifying offer to Burnett, which would have entitled them to draft-pick compensation if he signs with another club.
Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he's heard Burnett continues to work out and stay in shape in case he decides to pitch.
In December the Pirates agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with free agent Edinson Volquez, who has a chance to join Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Wandy Rodriguez in Pittsburgh's 2014 rotation. Left-hander Jeff Locke, who made the National League All-Star team before fading to 2-5 with a 6.12 ERA in 12 starts after the break, is also in the mix, along with Brandon Cumpton and Phil Irwin.
Burnett was the highest-paid player on the Pittsburgh roster at $16.5 million last season, but Coonelly said the team has some latitude in the payroll to bring him back.
"If he surprises us and he calls tomorrow and he's as passionate and competitive and as determined as he was for the first two years that he was with us, we would be thrilled to have him back," Coonelly said. "And we have the flexibility to bring him back."