PITTSBURGH -- A.J. Burnett's simulated game Tuesday went well, and the 36-year-old righty is scheduled to throw a bullpen session at 10 a.m. ET Thursday. He has been on the disabled list since June 14 with a Grade 1 tear in his right calf.
"How he feels with that could put him in a position to return to pitch," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Burnett hopes to avoid a rehab start, and Hurdle hasn't given any thought as to whether or not Burnett will need one.
But Hurdle said that traditionally, players who return from rehab starts are sharper than those who skip them. Burnett, however, didn't injure his arm.
"We haven't given it any thought other than taking it one day at a time," Hurdle said. "He has his own personal feelings, that he's going to continue to do the work he needs to do.
"We'll talk. That's what we'll continue to do."
With Jeanmar Gomez in the bullpen, the Pirates currently have just four starters in the rotation, and have not set a starter for Sunday's game against the Cubs.
Tabata comes off DL; Bucs option Cumpton
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates activated outfielder Jose Tabata on Wednesday and optioned pitcher Brandon Cumpton to Triple-A Indianapolis. Tabata started in right field and batted seventh against the Phillies, and said before the game that he still feels some discomfort and is about "85 percent."
Tabata has been on the disabled list with a left oblique strain since May 25. He went 5-for-28 in nine rehab games with Indy, and has a .272/.337/.407 slash line in 81 at-bats for the Pirates in 2013.
Entering Spring Training in great shape and with high expectations, Tabata said it wasn't too frustrating to be sidelined for a month, because that's the way things go sometimes.
"You've got to keep going," he said. "That's life. That's baseball. I'm here today, so thank you, God."
The Pirates have primarily used Travis Snider and Garrett Jones in right field this season, and the position has given the club its second lowest batting average and OPS at any spot besides shortstop.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Tabata will be given the opportunity to be the club's everyday right fielder, and added that the 24-year-old was in a "very good spot" before the year began.
"We're playing with a lot of passion, a lot of pride. He needs to be a part of that," Hurdle said. "I'm not all caught up in the numbers part of it, but I've got to see the fire and the passion."
McDonald to rest shoulder for two to three weeks
PITTSBURGH -- Righty James McDonald will not throw for two to three weeks after receiving a second opinion on his shoulder from Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas. McDonald has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 7 with stiffness in his right shoulder.
After resting for at least two weeks, McDonald will build up the strength in his arm again, starting with long toss, catch and bullpen sessions. He will likely be out until late August, at the earliest. McDonald said his shoulder is fine structurally, which was "relieving" to hear, since it means he won't need any extensive surgery.
"It [stinks] that you have to be out," McDonald said. "But it's good news to hear that."
McDonald struggled in the first month of the season, allowing 19 earned runs, 29 hits and 20 walks to 25 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings over six starts.
He sought a second opinion because the shoulder wasn't getting any better after six rehab starts in late May into June. He said he "rushed back" that time.
Pirates starters ranked third in baseball in ERA (3.31) and first in opponent's batting average (.233) entering play Wednesday.
"You want to get on the field, you want to perform," McDonald said. "You see what these guys are doing. I'm looking every day, checking to see what they're doing, excited to contribute. But I've got to rehab, get ready."
Bucs ink sixth-round Draft pick Frazier
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have signed Adam Frazier from Mississippi State, their sixth-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. The shortstop led the NCAA in hits this season with 107.
He was a preseason All-American and a semifinalist for the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award. He hit .352 with 38 RBIs and 62 runs in 71 games as a junior.
Frazier went 6-for-6 with three singles, two doubles and a triple in the Bulldogs' 11-6 win over Virginia in the NCAA Super Regional. His six hits tied an NCAA record for hits in a tournament game.
The Pirates also inked 37th-rounder Andrew Dennis, a catcher from Wallace State CC (Ala.). Both will report to Class A Jamestown.
• Righty Jared Hughes threw a 35-pitch bullpen session without incident Tuesday, and will now fly to Florida to continue his pitch progression. He has been on the disabled list since June 8 with shoulder inflammation, and has had two stints with Pittsburgh this year --- all of April, and for about a week in early June.
• Phil Irwin had surgery to transpose the ulnar nerve in his right elbow Wednesday, and the typical recovery time is about two months. He has made one appearance for the Pirates this season.
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.