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Burnett in form, ready to face Tigers

Burnett in form, ready to face Tigers

After his final start of Spring Training, A.J. Burnett stood at his locker and couldn't help but laugh a little at his misfortune. Over his eight-year career, Toronto's No. 2 starter has made eight separate trips to the disabled list.

"This is completely different," said Burnett, shaking his head. "What is this, the second or third time I get to break with a team? I'm pretty excited about that, especially with the team that we have here. It feels better to be a part of it."

Actually, this season will mark only the third time in Burnett's career that he's been able to enter the year with a clean bill of health. The same can't be said of last season, when the right-hander -- fresh off signing a five-year deal worth $55 million -- landed on the DL with an elbow injury during Spring Training.

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Burnett went on to spend more than two months on the DL in two separate stints on the sidelines. Still, he managed to win 10 games and was especially strong in September, when he went 4-2 with a 2.84 ERA.

Over the offseason, Burnett altered his routine. In the past, the pitcher would throw a handful of time off a mound over the winter, but he didn't take that step until after he reported to Spring Training this time around. Then, Burnett began working more on his changeup and gradually working in his curveball as spring progressed.

Burnett's approach helped him cruise through a healthy spring and now he's in a position to be the starter Toronto hoped it had signed in December 2005. Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay and Burnett have the potential to be one of baseball's best one-two punches.

"The reality is, we need a full season out of [Halladay] and a full season out of Burnett, out of most of them, if we're going to legitmately have a chance at this thing," Toronto manager John Gibbons said toward the end of Spring Training.

On Wednesday, Burnett will take the mound against the American League champion Tigers for his 2007 debut. On Monday, Detroit maintained a patient approach against Halladay, who was chased from the game after six innings, but the Jays took a 5-3 win in 10 innings.

The Tigers will send left-hander Nate Robertson to the hill. The southpaw was moved into the second slot of Detroit's rotation when Kenny Rogers recently landed on the DL. Last year, Robertson won 13 games and topped 200 innings for the first time in his career.

Pitching matchup
TOR: RHP A.J. Burnett (10-8, 3.98 ERA in 2006)
Burnett won his only career outing against the Tigers despite giving up five runs in 6 1/3 innings at Comerica Park on Sept. 28, 2006.

DET: LHP Nate Robertson (13-13, 3.84 ERA in 2006)
Robertson went 1-1 with a 9.31 ERA in two starts against the Blue Jays last season. He's 2-1 with a 5.26 ERA in five career games versus Toronto.

Player to watch
Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus, who drove in the game's deciding run on Monday, is 3-for-12 in his career against Robertson. Two of those hits are home runs.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• RSN

On radio
• FAN 590 AM

Up next
• Thursday: Blue Jays (LHP Gustavo Chacin, 9-4, 5.05 ERA in '06) at Tigers (RHP Justin Verlander, 17-9, 3.63 ERA in '06), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Blue Jays (RHP Tomo Ohka, 4-5, 4.82 ERA in '06) at Devil Rays (LHP Casey Fossum, 6-6, 5.33 ERA in '06), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Blue Jays (RHP Roy Halladay, 0-0, 3.00 ERA) at Devil Rays (LHP Scott Kazmir 0-0, 9.00 ERA), 7:10 p.m. ET

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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