On April 25, A.J. Burnett blew a 6-0 lead against the the Red Sox – strike one. Last night, Burnett walked five Red Sox hitters, and through more balls than strikes in 2-2/3 innings – strike two. One more blunder for Burnett against the Sox, and it’s strike three.
Burnett signed a 5-year, $82.5 million contract with the Yanks after having a career year with the Blue Jays last season. If I were him, I would feel extremely guilty. This is a guy that has only had one excuse all his career for not performing – his health. When healthy, his stuff is as good as almost any other pitcher's in the majors. However, this season he has been healthy, and there are no excuses.
You might say he was goofed up because of the extra days rest – at least that’s what Joe Girardi said. But Danny Knobler of CBS Sports was quick to point out that the last time Burnett pitched on six days rest, he beat the Yankees 2-1, and struck out 13 over eight innings. Another possible excuse was that he was facing a very good offensive ballclub on their home turf. Wrong again. Last season he was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA at Fenway Park. Burnett is out of excuses this season, and the only thing he can do is pitch himself out of this inconsistent start.
It’s pretty easy to sum up his season so far. He’s pitched well against the bad teams, and poorly against the good teams. That doesn’t sound like the guy the Yankees were looking for when they signed him. The Yankees probably thought that he had become a more consistent pitcher after last season, but apparently he’s back to his old ways.
The key with Burnett—just like most other pitchers—is to throw strikes. In his five starts in May, he walked 18 men! He needs to trust his stuff, and through his deuce for strikes. He’s mainly a two-pitch pitcher; so when he loses control of one, he’s in trouble.
The Yankees aren’t used to this kind of ineffectiveness. Normally, the Yanks sign a guy coming off a good year, but then he gets injured (or injures himself). Thus, resulting in poor pitching because he’s battling injuries all the time. With Burnett, he’s been healthy, but just hasn’t performed.
The two other big-name signings this past offseason also got off to slow starts (CC Sabathia & Mark Teixeira). But both have figured out their problems, so it just seems that Burnett is a little slow in adapting to pinstripes.
Is there any hope for Burnett? Yes. Last season, he pitched better as the season went on. Burnett’s ERA now is pretty close to what it was at this point last season (4.89-4.98, respectively). Like I said in the beginning, last night was only strike two. There are still over 100 games to be played, and Burnett should be starting 20 of them.