Another good start by A.J. further alleviates concern


After Andy Pettitte finished the sixth inning on Monday, there was a sense of relief. He was going on nine days’ rest in an attempt to rest his fatigued shoulder, something that concerned anyone with a stake in the Yankees’ chances. Andy passed his test, and will have two more tune-up starts before the playoffs. Next up on the checklist: A.J. Burnett. After a few rough starts in the past two months he’s looked good in his last couple of starts, helping ease concern.

As with Pettitte’s start, A.J.’s latest start wasn’t his best. He didn’t make it out of the sixth, allowing 10 baserunners along the way. But he worked out of trouble most of the time, using a sharp curveball to keep the Angels hitters off-balance. Burnett ended the day with 11 strikeouts, a sign that he had his best stuff. He also threw about 65 percent strikes, a good sign for his control, though the three walks don’t help that case. Of the Angels’ seven hits, only two were for extra bases.

We’ve seen Burnett at his best this season. He’s had stretches — well, one notable stretch — of absolute dominance. Unfortunately, he’s also had skids where it seems a team of David Ecksteins can rock him. He had a few of the latter at the end of August and into September, but over his past two starts A.J. has been much better. Jose Molina thinks it’s his last four starts, noting that one bad pitch, the grand slam to Brian Roberts, tainted Burnett’s start against the Orioles. In any case, his recent outings help the Yankees brass sleep a bit easier over the season’s final week and a half.

This doesn’t completely erase the concern. If we’ve learned anything from Burnett this season, anything can happen in any given start. Bad A.J. might show up and give up seven runs over four innings. Good A.J. might show up and dominate through seven. Or we might get that happy medium, the six-inning, three-run A.J. that walks a few too many guys but limits the damage. What alleviates the concern is that A.J. isn’t going into the postseason riding a losing streak.

It’s hard to believe, but Burnett has just one more start in the 2009 season, the middle game of the Kansas City series. The Yanks might juggle, starting Burnett on the season’s final day so he doesn’t have a huge gap between his final one and his first playoff start. If A.J. looks anything like he did yesterday or last Friday, it will go a long way in boosting confidence in the team heading to the playoffs.

Next up on the checklist: Joba Chamberlain. The team’s fourth starter draws the Red Sox on Friday and then the Royals on the 30th before packing it in for the regular season. How he looks in those two starts could determine whether the Yankees take the long or the short ALDS, though it seems they’re preparing for the long series. Joba would not pitch until the ALCS, meaning he’d pitch a maximum two games in the playoffs. That eases concern right off the bat, no?

Categories : Pitching


  1. pete c. says:

    That bastion of baseball intelligence the Hartford courant stated last sunday that since “Burnett is built for the post season” Yankee fans should stop obssesing about his performance in the regular season. I guess that makes him the Billy Smith of baseball. Who’s Billy Smith?

  2. Any love for the proposal I set forth in the CC/Reshuffled rotation thread?

    Oct. 2 @ TB Sabathia for 3 IP and Kennedy for 3 IP
    Oct. 3 @ TB Pettitte for 3 IP and Gaudin for 3 IP
    Oct. 4 @ TB Burnett for 3 IP and Joba for 3 IP

    Everyone gets some necessary final tuneups for the ALDS but nobody gets gassed or taxed…

    Thumbs up or thumbs down?

  3. Will says:

    The schedule of the ALCS is such that the Yankees can once again go with three pitchers if they are willing to have CC go on three days rest for one start. At this point, I would put Joba in the pen for the post season and plan on riding the top-3 through October.

  4. jsbrendog says:

    step 1: sweep lds

    step 2: sweep alcs

    step 3: sweep ws

    step 4: profit.

  5. AndrewYF says:

    Say the Yankees win Game 5 of the ALDS. That means Sabathia started Game 4, and Burnett Game 5. Sabathia wouldn’t be able to start Game 1 of the ALCS on normal rest. Do you start Sabathia on 3-days rest, or Pettitte on 4-days rest, and have Sabathia start Game 2 on normal rest? I’m guessing that’s what would happen. Then you get Burnett for Game 3 on 4-days rest, and then you have to start Joba/Gaudin. Then Pettitte, Sabathia, Burnett on normal rest.

    I’m intrigued by the possibility of starting Sabathia three times in the ALCS, if the Yankees do sweep the ALDS. Sure, he’d be pitching on 3-days rest for Game 4, but then you have him on normal rest for a possible Game 7. That’s much more appealing to me than having Pettitte take the hill for a Game 7.

    • TLVP says:

      Pettitte for game 1 of ALCS in that scenario

      Short rest is a bad idea in almost every situation – its only slightly less bad with CC.

      I’d take CC on 3 days rest over Joba or Gaudin in an elimination game but not over AJ or Pettitte.

      Remember that the aim is to win the WS and every start on 3 days could have a negative effect on the rest of the starts. Furthermore CC is signed up for 6 more years at $140m, I doubt the Yankees will start him very often on short rest. He should really only see 120 pitch games in teh post season and we should try to keep him contained to 230 innings a year

  6. mryankee says:

    Loss of Hairston is no big deal he was a marginal contributor at best. I am really hoping Joba has a good showing tomorrow night, great opportunity for him. Pitching against the Sox and Lester is a challenege he should rise to if he is going to an ace type pitcher. I am also glad to see Girardi press Joba a bit maybe that will wake him up. As Bill walsh said “this is the pros and we dont have to keep you”

  7. Bob Michaels says:

    Joba flat out Stinks, no effort at all, looks like a batting practice pitcher. Should return to the little league for further seasoning along with the Geniuses who proposed the JOBA RULES.

  8. [...] positive was that A.J. Burnett has looked much better in his last couple of [...]

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