Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A.J. Burnett Is Ready To Keep Perfect April Record Intact

You have to look pretty hard to find highlights of A.J. Burnett's career as a New York Yankee, but the amazing fact is that the much-maligned right-hander is 7-0 in pinstripes during the month of April.  The lanky starter is 2-0 this year and off to another to another quick start.

Tonight Burnett tries to extend his undefeated April record as a Yankee against the Baltimore Orioles to 8-0.

Burnett, who entered this season as the teeth-gnawing piece of the Yankees rotation, has now been replaced by Phil Hughes as the big question mark.  Maybe, by turning the manager's glare from Burnett to Hughes, will help Burnett regain the confidence he lost a season-and-a-half ago?

Hughes has replaced the 34 year-old Burnett as the team's biggest concern with his 0-1 record and sky-high 16.50 ERA as Hughes, the No. 3 starter, continues to search for his fastball.

Burnett, the shaving-cream-pie-throwing, mystery-on-the-mound has looked good so far.  He is coming off a economical 6-inning, 5-hit win against the Minnesota Twins--while battling a nasty cold-- and has 11 strikeouts to go with his 4.09 ERA for the season.

Yankee fans shouldn't get too excited.  Last year Burnett started the season with a 4-0 record and then spiraled out of control the rest of the season.  He finished with a inconsistent 10-15 record and a bloated 5.26 ERA.  He was about as predictable as a Charlie Sheen show--unless you call it bad.

So far, as a Yankee, Burnett has blossomed in April.  He has a 3.91 ERA in 12 starts to go with his unblemished record, but those April showers seem to bring May sours.

If you take away the seven April wins, Burnett's record as a Yankee is a dismal 18-24, but the tattooed hurler says things feel a little different this year.

Burnett says new pitching coach Larry Rothschild altered his delivery during spring training and, more importantly, he has found a battery soul-mate with new catcher Russell Martin.

It was no secret that Burnett and catcher Jorge Posada clashed over the last two seasons and now that Posada has been assigned to a DH position, their days together are limited to high-fives in the dugout.

During his win against the Twins, Burnett showed he can once again wiggle out of trouble and after wards, he sounded like he prefers throwing to Russell.

"I shook [Martin] off today and he put the same sign back down," said Burnett.  "He's got me believing."

The Yankees have to encouraged by Burnett's first two outings--lord knows they have very little else to be happy about--but tonight he will be facing a division-leading Orioles team.

"I've said it before, it's absolutely about  consistency and doing my work in between (starts) with Larry and keeping it rolling," said Burnett.  "Not thinking about it, just go out and pitch."

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