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Burnett ready to come off disabled list

Burnett ready to come off disabled list

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Blue Jays let out a huge sigh of relief from Toronto all the way down to Florida on Thursday.

First, Toronto announced that left-hander Ted Lilly, who had been shut down for about a week because of a back problem, is healthy enough to start on Saturday against Tampa Bay.

Then, later in the night in Florida, A.J. Burnett pitched in a real game for the first time since March 18, when the right-hander left in the second inning against Boston.

Burnett, who signed a five-year, $50-million contract with the Blue Jays in December, went four innings, allowing one run and three hits while walking one and striking out one. The right-hander worked a 1-2-3 first and then got out of a jam in the second, holding the Threshers scoreless, after loading the bases on two consecutive singles and then hitting a batter.

"I'm very pleased with the outcome and the results," said Burnett, who threw 61 pitches. "I probably could have thrown 10 or 15 more, if I wanted to, but overall I'm really happy with how I threw."

Burnett, who had scar tissue break off during the Red Sox game due to complications from his 2003 Tommy John elbow surgery, threw off the mound in the bullpen on Monday in Toronto at Rogers Centre before returning to Florida as a part of his 15-day DL assignment. Burnett gave up the only run in the third on a walk, a stolen base and a single.

"You can throw all the BPs you want, but it's not the same as coming out here and pitching in a live game," said Burnett, who is expected to return to Toronto on Friday with his first start with the Blue Jays against the Chicago White Sox on April 16. "It was good to be able to work out of a jam and also have some easy innings there. My arm feels good and I feel ready to go."

Burnett will come off the DL, which is retroactive to March 24, this Saturday and could make an earlier start if the Toronto brass feels he is up to it.

Toronto manager John Gibbons used the notorious "never say never" line earlier this week when discussing the possibility of Burnett going sooner, so the wait is on.

Zaun news: In the same game, catcher Gregg Zaun went 0-for-4 and played all nine innings. Zaun, who was placed on the 15-day DL late last week, took pitches from behind the plate for the entire game and reported no soreness in his right calf.

"I was amped to play tonight," said Zaun, who returns to Toronto on Friday and is expected to start on Saturday. "The most important thing tonight was to get a full game in and get out on the bases running. I've been throwing the ball well and swinging the bat well in the cages."

"He looked free and easy," said Zaun. "He threw the ball well tonight. He got a real good workout with his changeups. But, he looked real good and when he gets out there in the lights, he's gonna dial it up."

C.R. Girandola is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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