DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It wasn't exactly the way A.J. Burnett wanted the day to start, but what matters is the way he finished.
On a blustery Friday afternoon that saw gusts of wind eclipse 30 mph, Twins fleet-footed prospect Carlos Gomez bunted on the second pitch from Burnett and reached first base safely. Burnett slipped coming off the mound on the play and seemed a bit rattled by it, inspecting the mound for a few seconds before facing Nick Punto.
Gomez then easily stole second on Burnett and advanced to third on a groundout by Punto. Gomez scored when Delmon Young reached base on an infield single to short.
Burnett then allowed a single to Garrett Jones and seemed to be in for a frustrating day, but the 6-foot-4 righty induced Randy Ruiz into an inning-ending double play.
Burnett went on to allow just one more hit before exiting after the third inning. He tossed 38 pitches, 27 for strikes, while throwing 11 of 12 first-pitch strikes to the 12 batters he faced.
"I was obviously in synch later rather than earlier, but all in all, I had pretty good command," said Burnett, who had one strikeout. "I felt good, though. By the third inning, I was clicking. It's one of those things that the more times you get out there, the better you're going to pitch."
Burnett has been dealing with a right-index fingernail problem that has prevented him from using the curveball. He has reverted to working on his changeup more while waiting on the nail to grow, and said he would be able to start the season in the same fashion.
"If need be, I can be effective [pitching without the curve]," Burnett said. "If it doesn't grow in by the start of the season, we might put in a fake [fingernail], in a worst-case scenario."
Burnett said that he pitched with a fake nail two years ago and had no problems. As far as picking up with the curveball with the season already started, Burnett isn't worried.
"It's not a problem because I'm so used to throwing it," Burnett said.
Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun said that Burnett is a talented enough pitcher to handle picking up using the pitch midstream.
"Some guys just have a natural feel for that pitch and it's easy to pick up," Zaun said. "Throwing the changeup for a while will only make him better. Sometimes, I have to remind him to use it, but he's definitely got it."
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.