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Notes: Burnett to wait until Mets
05/31/2004  3:37 PM ET
MIAMI -- Ideally, A.J. Burnett had his heart set on making his debut Wednesday afternoon at home against the Reds.

But after weighing several factors, the Marlins decided to push Burnett's return date to Thursday when they face the Mets at Shea Stadium.

The competitor in Burnett isn't overly pleased, because he was eager to perform before the home crowd where family members and friends could have been on hand.

"It's good to be back out there, whether I'm on the road or at home," said Burnett, who is battling back from Tommy John surgery. "Obviously, I would have wanted to start my comeback at Pro Player Stadium, right here."

Burnett hasn't pitched in a big-league game since April 25, 2003, when he worked 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Cardinals.

"I think the place would have been packed," said the 27-year-old right-hander, who has made three rehab assignment starts in preparation for his return. "I just want to get back out there. It is going to be fun to pitch, whether it's on the road or at home. It's going to be fun again. This way, I get six days' rest, if I need it instead of five. I get an extra day to throw a bullpen."

Burnett's options were to have a fourth rehab start on Wednesday for Class A Jupiter or pitch against the Mets in New York.

"I'll take New York," Burnett said. "I've been working for many months now to be ready to work."

By going Thursday, Burnett will be on course to make three straight starts on six days' rest because of the off-day schedule. Another reason is to keep Dontrelle Willis on his present schedule.

Willis will face the Reds, who have more left-handed batters than the Mets.

Burnett, however, has not faired well in New York, where he is 0-4 with a 4.09 ERA in nine games.

"I want him to focus," Marlins pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal said. "He will be focused on the road."

Burnett will be on a 90-100 pitch count.

Burnett downplays a difficult rehab outing he had for Triple-A Albuquerque against the Memphis Redbirds in Memphis.

"I'm going there to get my work in," he said. "I'm not going down there to dominate Triple-A. They came out swinging. I had a lot of pitches. A lot of foul balls. I got my pitches in. I woke up and I wasn't sore. That's what they should be happy about."

Howard recalled: The Marlins officially placed Josh Beckett on the disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger and recalled right-handed reliever Ben Howard from Triple-A.

Howard was acquired from San Diego on April 3 for reliever Blaine Neal.

Howard will wear No. 39, Neal's number last year.

In 17 relief appearances in Albuquerque, Howard was 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA. He gave up 11 earned runs in 29 innings with 25 strikeouts and 17 walks.

With the Padres in 2002 and 2003, Howard appeared in nine games, with eight starts. He has a 1-4 record with a 4.96 ERA in 45 1/3 innings.

Howard, 25, has a lively 93-95 mph fastball, a slider, curve and changeup. He is similar to injured reliever Chad Fox in terms of his stuff.

The concern is that his command isn't always sharp, and he has a tendency to be wild.

McKeon will toss Howard into the late-inning setup mix.

"Like all the rest of them, I put him right out there," McKeon said. "If we have to use him, we'll use him. He's had good command of late."

Beckett on the mend: Despite spending three stints on the DL two years ago with blister problems, Beckett is confident his latest episode will not be a lingering concern.

Beckett remains unhappy that he was placed on the disabled list without seeing on the broken skin would mend the next few days.

Rather than chance complicating matters, the Marlins are taking no chances and giving the finger time to heal.

Beckett is treating the blister with Stan's Blister Cream, an ointment that toughens the skin. The first step is drying the infected area.

Beckett, who ruptured the blister below the callus on his fingertip in the third inning Sunday, is doing the same maintenance he has done since last year. After each start, he applies the ointment.

A year ago, Beckett and Mark Redman, now with the A's, had a similar routine to help prevent any problems.

"We did it all year last year," Beckett said. "You can't go in there and start changing things around."

Beckett first detected signs of the blister in his previous start, in the rain at Cincinnati.

"I don't know if it was the weather the other day in Cincinnati," Beckett said.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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