Results tagged ‘ A.J. Burnett ’

Not the A.J. Burnett they wanted

The Yankees disliked seeing A.J. Burnett so much, late in the 2008 season, Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon were among those who pulled general manager Brian Cashman aside and lobbied to open the wallets and make sure the right-hander landed in the Bronx after electing free agency.

Flash forward to June 2010, and Burnett says he’s not sure who he is right now. He isn’t comfortable pitching out of the windup, his pitches aren’t hitting their spots, and his confidence seems to be fading quickly. 
“It comes down to,” Burnett said, “remembering what it feels like to succeed.”
It is impossible not to wonder if pitching coach Dave Eiland’s excused absence is beginning to show up in Burnett’s results. No offense to Mike Harkey, who is trying to fill in, but no one knows the ins and outs of the Yankees’ starters like Eiland — as pitchers have raved, he can pick up on the smallest hitches on video and deliver those changes in the four-day span between starts. 
“You can’t put it on one person,” Joe Girardi said. “Obviously we miss Dave, but to put your finger on exactly what it is, all of us have been here with [Burnett]. We understand what he needs to do. He needs to get it done.”

A.J. and Posada ready for their new beginning

I actually went back and listened to the audio of A.J. Burnett and Jorge Posada breaking down that August 22 start against the Red Sox, which still happened to be on my laptop as in MP3 form. That tells me two things — one, I need to do a better job of backing up my data, and two, the tone of both players is now markedly different.

Having a whole spring to work together doesn’t necessarily mean that Burnett and Posada will work as a lights-out battery tonight against the Red Sox, nor does it mean that Burnett will have a wonderful season against the Red Sox – shades of his ’08. But it is certainly possible that Burnett just got a little too amped up to be part of the rivalry, and as Posada says in this story, it is crucial that the Yankees keep his emotions in check.

Those poor extended spring kids never had a chance. Hughes actually had to keep pitching more than the six innings the Yankees allotted, because he’d thrown too many strikes – 70 of 100 pitches, in fact. Then he dashed to Tampa International Airport and jetted up to Boston, where he’ll get a hotel room to watch two whole games in the bullpen. Then, it’s back to (guess where?) — Tampa, Florida. Yes, it seems like some cosmic joke.

Spin that wild setup bullpen wheel! My take on the picture is that the Yankees would love, adore, relish nothing more, than to have Joba Chamberlain stand tall and morph back into 2007 Joba — right up until the game where he had the midges in his mouth. I’m just not sure where that guy is right now; he seemed to be back in the ’09 playoffs, but is he there in ’10? But as Joe Girardi said in our season-opening Q&A (and I’m sure in other places as well), Chamberlain has a “good chance” to be that eighth-inning guy. Now he’s just got to prove it.  

Working with Posada, A.J. feels all right

Remember August 22 of last season? Sure you do. That was the game that the relationship between A.J. Burnett and Jorge Posada hit its low point, with Burnett stretching his arms out and yelling at himself, “Why? Why would you throw that pitch?”

It has been an enduring snapshot, and not just in the media and among the fan base. On Saturday, an afternoon when Burnett and Posada clicked at their best, Burnett revealed that the memories from Fenway Park had made the trip to Spring Training as something for the ‘what to work on’ file.

“I think that whole Boston thing kind of got the best of us,” Burnett said. “Even though
we talked about it and knew it wasn’t about him and wasn’t about me,
the whole thing blew up so much that … it keeps it in the back of your
mind. To be able to come here and work here and throw to him every
start, it’s fun and relaxed.”

Burnett and Posada needed to fix whatever wasn’t going right in their relationship because, frankly, they are going to be together a good amount. Jose Molina is gone, having signed with the Blue Jays, and Joe Girardi does not want to use Francisco Cervelli as a personal catcher for Burnett – or anyone.

So far, Burnett says the relationship is working. He didn’t have his curveball Saturday and needed to figure out a way to navigate the Tigers, relying instead on his fastball and offering props to Posada’s game-calling. In short, Burnett said that Saturday had been “easy upstairs,” meaning that the battery was largely on the same page over 6 2/3 innings of one-run, three-hit ball at Joker Marchant Stadium.

“I could be more efficient, but that’ll come under the lights, hopefully,” said Burnett, who walked three and struck out two in a 91-pitch outing. “Just to get that hook over is the main thing today, but besides that, I felt great. I was relaxed and confident.”

‘Good A.J.’ prevails in the end

That guy who walked to the mound for the bottom of the first inning here in Clearwater, Fla.? Yeah, that was ‘Bad A.J.’ He was gone by the second inning, replaced by ‘Good A.J.’

After the Phillies raked A.J. Burnett for a five-spot early, banging everything hard – including a two-run Placido Polanco homer – the Yankees’ No. 2 starter started to settle in and salvaged what was left of his four-inning outing against the National League champs.
 
“They swung early,” Burnett said. “I attacked and established early, and they swung early. If you’re going to get me, get me early and get me now.”

Admitting he could have been sharper, the one thing Burnett was happy to take from this start was his continued trust in the changeup, which he’s tooling with more and more. It got hit here and there, but Burnett kept throwing it, and in fact, he told catcher Francisco Cervelli to call it in odd counts. 

Burnett finished just a balk shy of a Spring Training rarity (and something I’d never heard of before I came on this beat) – a pitching line Yahtzee, where every category gets filled in. Check it:

NY Yankees IP H R ER BB SO HR WP HBP BK
Burnett 4 7 5 5 3 4 1 1 1 0

The hit batter prompted someone in this press box to sing, “I left my fastball … in Ben Francisco.” The wild pitch was actually pretty comical too, firing all the way to the backstop like something out of Nuke LaLoosh’s repertoire.

Burnett had the right pitch, a fastball, but he missed Cervelli’s location and was shocked to see him set up in a different spot when he looked back at home plate halfway through his delivery .
 
“I should have just thrown it,” Burnett said. “My fault. A quick little flash of ignorance. But it went all the way back there, didn’t it?”

  • Jamie Hoffmann’s heading back to the Dodgers, and that’s good news for Marcus Thames. Joe Girardi said recently that it was mostly between Hoffmann and Thames for the 25th man spot, a right-handed hitting outfielder off the bench. While he wouldn’t say it since Greg Golson and David Winfree are still in camp, that competition seems closed.
  • The Yankees sent infielders Reegie Corona, Brandon Laird, Eduardo Nunez and Jorge Vazquez to Minor League camp after Monday’s game. The Yankees now have 39 players remaining in big league camp.
  • Joe Girardi on Phil Hughes’ outing: “A lot better than what the scoreboard shows. His changeup was great today, that’s the best changeup he’s had. I know you’re going to see the line score and four runs, but I thought he threw the ball a lot better than those four runs. I thought it was the best stuff he’s had.” 
  • Phil Hughes on his spring: “I feel like I’ve worked hard to get myself to this point where I can be a successful starter. I feel like my changeup has come a long way, and if I go to the bullpen or Triple-A, I feel like that’s another big weapon for me and I’ll be able to use it. I’ve kind of learned around here just to roll with the punches. What you say isn’t going to affect anything. You just have to go out and do the best you can, and see what decisions come from it.”
  • Joba Chamberlain on having to pitch in that intrasquad game: “It doesn’t matter who you’re facing. These guys are here for a reason. These guys are still in camp for a reason. I’ll put these guys against their lineup so you can’t approach it any different if you’re facing Jimmy Rollins or Greg Golson. They’re still here for a reason.”

A walk-off win, but no pie? Well, not so fast…

At the moment Colin Curtis slugged a three-run home run over the right-center field wall, ending Wednesday’s 6-3 Yankees win over the Pirates, A.J. Burnett was long gone – sometimes the starting pitchers hang out to watch each other work, but maybe there are other ways to occupy a cool but enjoyable afternoon in the Tampa area (we wouldn’t know!).

Anyway, that meant that when Curtis and his No. 98 jersey crossed home plate, there was no madman racing out of the dugout with a whipped cream-laden towel to hit the outfielder with. That sort of thing seems best reserved for the regular season anyway, if you’re going to do it all.

But the Yankees haven’t forgotten how many times Burnett whacked them in the kisser with something sweet last season, in one of the more hilarious quirks of the ’09 Yankees. So when Burnett won the Yankees’ Indy Car racing video game tournament on Tuesday, Kevin Long got revenge on behalf of the whole team.

Hard to believe no players spilled the goods today! Here’s Joe Girardi:

“It just happened the spur of the moment. I saw this shorter coach running to get a towel and some whipped cream at the bar in there. The next thing I know, there’s 50 guys, and he kind of got his way through. That was enjoyable for me to watch, and probably about 15 other guys too.”

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