Thursday, October 14, 2010

A.J.: From Pie-in-the-Face to Pie-in-the-Sky Chance

By Tony Mangia


The sight of A.J. Burnett on the mound might scare a lot of opposing hitters---if only because he lead the league in "batters hit" with 19---but it should scare Yankee fans even more.  Out of desperation for a fourth starter in the ALCS against the Texas Rangers Yankees manager, Joe Girardi,  has called on the floundering Burnett to fill the pivotal role.  In a simulated game yesterday, Burnett's first throw soared over catcher Francisco Cervelli's head before his third pitch drilled Greg Golson.  Later, another errant pitch grazed Austin Kearns.  It seems like Burnett hasn't lost his inclination to turn his outings into an audition for Wild Thing in "Major League III."

Girardi's choice of Burnett is based less on merit than necessity.  Unlike last year's ALCS, there is no scheduled break between games 4 and 5.  A three-man rotation can't be trusted to just the Yankees' big three---CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes.  CC could probably handle the chore but to leave shortened rest-days to Pettitte, with concerns about his age and recent injury, or the inexperienced Hughes---who already pitched more than his allotted innings during the season---could spell trouble if they face down Cliff Lee in  game seven.

Using Burnett could be a monkey wrench thrown into the machine-like efficiency of the Bronx team---which swept the Twins in the ALDS.  In the six-inning "game" against the Yankee "B" squad, Burnett showed some signs of his old reliable self, but was mostly ineffective.  After bopping Golson, Burnett said, "Everything was good.  The hook was good, the curve was good." Just wait until he faces Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler and the claws and antlers of the Rangers' lineup.

Girardi is putting a lot of faith in the Pieman.  Burnett was 10-15 on the season with a 5.26 ERA.  By far the worst season by a Yankee in a long time.  He stumbled down the stretch and faces a Texas team which swept the Yanks only last month and clinched the ALDS by winning three games on-the-road in Tampa.  The erratic Burnett took his demotion from the starting line-up like a man.  Let's see if he can man up for game four.

After yesterday's game, Kearns said," His stuff isn't the question.  I think it's just, for him, can he keep throwing strikes."  Burnett confessed that after pitching his first game in ten days, "My knees were shaking."  If the imitation game was any indication, the Yankees' heads could be shaking on Tuesday night.

No comments:

Post a Comment