A.J. Burnett will make the first opening day start of his 15-year career Monday. Ironically, it might be the last for the Pirates' right-hander.
The five-year, $82.5 million contract that Burnett signed with the New York Yankees in December 2008 expires at the end of this season, and the 36-year-old is contemplating retirement. His children are 12 and 9, and a more normal lifestyle appeals to Burnett.
"It's something I've really thought about ever since I signed the contract," Burnett said. "I thought it might be my last contract. I was thinking 36 would be a good age to retire."
However, Burnett is leaving the door ajar. He said he would consider playing again in 2014 if the Pirates want him back.
"Pittsburgh is the only place I want to play," Burnett said. "I love it here. It's a great group of guys in the clubhouse, and the fans here have been great to me. There really is no other place that would appeal to me after playing here.
Burnett will face the Chicago Cubs on Monday after becoming the Pirates' ace last year in his first season with the club. He went 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA in 31 starts after being acquired from the Yankees just before the start of spring training.
"I'm looking forward to it," Burnett said. "I don't know exactly what my reaction will be like when I go out to warm up because I've never pitched in an opener before, but I'm hoping it will be a lot of fun."
Manager Clint Hurdle never had any doubt that Burnett would pitch on opening day.
"Well, for one thing, he's our pitcher, so even I was able to figure out he should pitch in the opener," Hurdle said with a smile. "He certainly deserves the honor, and it's fitting that his first one comes here considering how much A.J loves Pittsburgh and how much Pittsburgh loves A.J."