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Baseball notebook

Notes: A.J. Burnett has eye injury

Pirates ace hit by batted ball

Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett was struck in the face by a batted ball yesterday and will fly from the team’s spring training complex in Bradenton, Fla., to Pittsburgh to have his right eye examined by team doctors.

Burnett was injured as he was hitting during a bunting drill. After the ball hit the temple near his right eye, a dazed Burnett dropped into a crouch near home plate. Players who had gathered to watch the drill gasped loudly then went quiet as Burnett sagged to his knee. As he was examined by an athletic trainer, Burnett joked, “Where did the bone go?’’

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Holding a towel against his face, Burnett was helped off the field. He left the complex without speaking to reporters. The Pirates have released no information regarding the exact nature of Burnett’s injury.

The Pirates acquired Burnett, 35, on the eve of spring training in a three-player trade with the Yankees. Before the injury, Burnett was expected to be the Pirates’ starter on Opening Day.

Special delivery

Trevor Gooby, the Pirates’ director of Florida operations, delivered a baby when a fan went into labor during an event Tuesday night at McKechnie Field in Bradenton.

“We were waiting for the ambulance and she kept saying, ‘This baby’s coming,’ ’’ Gooby said. “She gave one push, the baby came out, and I caught it. I did my best [outfielder Andrew] McCutchen impersonation.’’

The baby, a boy who was born five weeks early, will be named McKechnie.

New playoff format?

ESPN reported that Major League Baseball and the players’ association are close to announcing the implementation of a 10-team playoff field that would take effect in October. Under the new format, the two wild-card teams in each league would meet first and the three division winners would receive first-round byes . . . Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard missed workouts in Clearwater, Fla., again yesterday after a procedure Monday to remove an infection around his surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon. Howard, who had the original surgery in October, took part in workouts when camp opened, but stopped after batting practice Saturday. He’s been held out of all baseball activities since. There is no timetable for his return . . . Postseason stars David Freese and Allen Craig will make slightly more than the major league minimum this season for the Cardinals, who agreed to one-year contracts with 24 players. Freese, the NLCS and World Series MVP, will make $508,000, just $28,000 above the minimum of $480,000. If the 28-year-old third baseman from St. Louis County is optioned to the minors he’d make $249,600. Craig, who hit three home runs in the World Series, also gets a split contract. He will make $495,000 in the majors and $248,400 if he is optioned . . . Mariners manager Eric Wedge said there is “considerable concern’’ about a pectoral injury suffered by starting center fielder Franklin Gutierrez. Wedge said Gutierrez is back in Seattle meeting with team doctors and looking over an MRI of the injury. Gutierrez left camp Tuesday after suffering the injury . . . Rangers righthander Yu Darvish threw 35 pitches to two minor leaguers in a 10-minute session in Surprise, Ariz. Catcher Mike Napoli said the Japanese star used his entire seven-pitch repertoire. Darvish throws a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a split-finger fastball, a curve, slider, cutter, and changeup . . . Free agent pitcher Justin Dowdy was suspended 50 games under the minor league drug program for refusing to take a test. The suspension will start when the 28-year-old lefthander signs with a big league organization.

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