BOSTON -- The end could be near. Yankee fans may be able to put down their pitchforks and their signs. A.J. Burnett’s time in the starting rotation may be counted in hours, not days, now.
And Burnett knows it.
“It is at stake,” Burnett said.
Burnett, 9-11, 5.31 ERA, may already be done. On Tuesday, Phil Hughes may have left the door a bit ajar, going just 5 2/3 innings and allowing six runs, but Burnett’s ineptitude may make it moot.
“We’ll make our decision when we have to,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Burnett is coming off the worst starting ERA (11.91) in August in Yankee history. His mechanics are out of alignment. His fastball doesn’t reach the upper 90’s anymore. And if he gets his pitches up, his line is ugly.
“I don’t throw 99,” Burnett said. “I don’t throw 98 no more so I’m not getting away with mistakes that I got away with in the past.”
Burnett sounded like a skipped record (kids, ask your parents what that is) as he repeated the familiar mantra about new mechanics and confidence.
Burnett is 34 and there is no reason to believe that his career graph is about to go up. It feels like that this could be the end of him as a Yankee starter. At least for this year.
Beyond that, who knows?
Burnett hinted that if things didn’t work out and he lost his confidence, he would walk away. He still has two more seasons left in his five-year, $82.5 million contract so no one should hold their breaths.
“I don’t think I’m the type of person to waste my time or anyone else’s time,” Burnett said.
Burnett is constantly trying to get his mind right. He takes a page out of YES’ Yankee Classic playbook.
“I watch positive outings,” Burnett said. “I watch myself succeeding, as opposed to failing.”
So there may have been some dust on the DVDs that Burnett popped into his clubhouse computer. Burnett did say the usual stuff about the changes he has made since his season-high nine earned runs in five innings in Baltimore. It was the third time in his last five starts he has allowed seven earned runs or more.
“We have made a lot of adjustments, Larry [Rothschild, the Yankees pitching coach,] and I,” Burnett said. “I’m not going to put added pressure on myself. My numbers are not going to get dramatically better, no matter how I pitch the rest of the year. It is not about the numbers. It is about getting on track. It starts with the first pitch of the game, first batter of the game.”
It is smart for Burnett avoid the numbers. He is on pace to become the first Yankee starter in franchise history to pitch 150-plus innings and have a five-plus ERA in consecutive seasons. Instead, Burnett is trying to eliminate movement in his delivery so his arm path is in the same spot every time.
“I’m able to find the same window more consistently,” Burnett said.
Burnett says he has been in this position before. He said he remains confident and thinks his failures have been just because of an inning here and an inning there so he is trying to do anything to drastic, believing that the staus quo may not produce the status quo.
“Last thing you wanted to do is change everything up,” Burnett said. “We did that last year and, ‘You know what hit the fan.’”