When writing about the Pirates' All-Star selections yesterday, I didn't talk much about Jeff Locke. It's not that I don't think Locke deserves to be on the team (I certainly do think he does), it's just that I think that five years from now we're going to go to Locke's Baseball-Reference page and see the "All-Star" banner and wonder just exactly how that happened. Locke is a Paul Maholm, and I don't mean that in an insulting way at all, but I don't know that he's ever going to be more than that.
That being said, Locke making the All-Star Game is great not just for him, but for AJ Burnett. When Locke got the news about making the team last night, I noticed something; his Twitter avatar is Robin's symbol*. I thought that was strange for a second (who wants to be Robin?) until I remembered that Burnett's avatar is Batman. Burnett takes his role as a mentor to these young pitchers very, very seriously, and I suspect that it means a lot to him to have Locke make the All-Star team.
Burnett is coming back from the disabled list without a rehab stint today. He hasn't pitched since June 8th, but apparently he looks fine in his bullpen sessions and simulated games. He didn't want to do a rehab stint, and who's going to make him? Not Clint Hurdle or Neal Huntington, apparently. It's a big start for Burnett, because the Pirates need a win this afternoon to avoid a second straight series loss against a losing team. Some of Burnett's best start as a Pirate have come against the Cubs, so I think it makes sense to have him pitching here instead against of Toledo today.
Neil Walker is out of the lineup after yesterday's mysterious injury, so Brandon Inge is playing second base while Josh Harrison mucks around with a .374 OBP and a .502 slugging percentage in Triple-A. If Walker ends up on the disabled list and Inge becomes the starting second baseman, I'm going to scream a little bit.
First pitch today is at 2:20. Carlos Villanueva starts for the Cubs.
*Locke is definitely Tim Drake, the sidekick that Batman didn't even know he needed and that the public was awfully skeptical of, but who turned out to be unexpectedly awesome despite a general lack of physical ability. James McDonald is, without a doubt, Jason Todd, the one that Batman tried to help in an endeavour that ultimately ended in failure. This season is McDonald's proverbial "Joker with a crowbar" season. That would have to make Gerrit Cole Damian Wayne, the most gifted of all of the Robins and the one most like Batman himself, destined to either surpass him and inherit his cowl, or leave Gotham City in ruins. Only Batman can truly prevent the worst outcome** I can't figure out who Dick Grayson would be, but it'd probably have to be someone from Toronto who Burnett mentored that had a brief period of awesomeness while Batman was dead (Burnett was a Yankee), and then faded back into the background. I think Shaun Marcum might work, but I have no idea what sort of relationship he and Burnett had in Toronto.
**Hopefully Gerrit Cole doesn't get stabbed in the heart by an evil, prematurely aged clone of himself trained by Talia al Ghul, who also happens to be his mother. I saw the interview with Cole's mom during his debut. She didn't seem to have a lot of super villain in her. I think we're safe.