A.J. Burnett Has Proven His Worth for the Yankees in 2009

July 28, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

When A.J. Burnett signed the five-year, $82.5 million contract back in December for the Yankees, some people feel as if they were overpaying for him.

The way Burnett has been pitching in 2009, the Yankees are getting their money’s worth from Burnett.

Monday night’s game against the Rays in Tropicana Field was no exception. The Yankees kicked off a nine-game road trip in Tampa and sent Burnett to the hill.

All Burnett did was pitch seven dominating innings, allowed two hits and one run, walked two and struck out five to get the win.

Burnett is now 10-4 on the season with a 3.53 ERA.

Before the season, many were worries that Burnett was going to be an injury problem for the Yankees and might not live up to his contract.

He won his first two starts in Baltimore and Tampa Bay in early April, but after quite a few no decisions and two losses, it took Burnett well over a month to record his third win of the season on May 27 in Texas.

His worst start of the season came on June 9 at Fenway Park against the Red Sox where he only went two-and-two-thirds innings pitched, allowed five hits, five runs, and walked five with one strikeout in a Yankee 7-0 loss to Boston.

After that dreadful start against the Red Sox, Burnett has only lost one game; a 2-1 loss to the Marlins in a pitching duel with Josh Johnson, a 2009 N.L. All Star. Even in that game, Burnett pitched into the seventh inning and struck out eight guys, so even in that loss, he was still strong.

What’s even more impressive is that since the Boston game, Burnett has won six games for the Yankees.

The most impressive of those games was June 27 at Citi Field against the New York Mets; Burnett was virtually un-hittable that night. Burnett pitched seven innings, allowed one hit, no runs, walked three and struck out 10 that night, Burnett’s season high.

It’s quite possible that if Burnett did not allow that one hit, Burnett may have had a chance to throw a no-hitter against the Mets. But the win is still as good. What’s also been remarkable is the June 9 Red Sox game was the only game where Burnett did not pitch five innings.

In his 20 starts made, Burnett has gone at least five innings in 19 of them, he’s gone at least six innings in 17 of the starts and has gone at least seven innings in seven of his starts, so he’s giving the Yankees depth and quality in his games.

In his 20 starts, Burnett has gone 127-1/3 innings with 113 strikeouts and the 3.53 ERA to go along with his 10-4 record so far.

Not only is Burnett bringing dominating stuff to the mound every five games, he’s brought a leadership to the locker room and dugout that isn’t easy to come by. After learning to change the way he pitched while in Toronto under the guidance of Roy Halladay, Burnett is more than just a fire-baller type pitcher, he’s a much smarter pitcher and it is showing this season.

He’s been helping with Joba Chamberlain and trying to give the younger Joba advice and key instructions during some games.

The best thing though is Burnett has stayed healthy for the Yankees. Like I said before, he’s not just throwing gas and blowing out his arm like he did in Florida and Toronto, he’s changed the way he pitches and that’s a big thanks to Halladay.

Burnett is relying more on his breaking pitches to get hitters out. When his curve ball is sharp, no hitter in baseball can come near it. Burnett finally learned how to think and trust all of his pitches but can still go back to the fastball when needed.

Burnett has also brought his free-spirit and fun-loving attitude to the Yankee clubhouse and locker room. The infamous shaving cream pie is now a trademark for the Yankees after a walk-off win.

Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui and even Jorge Posada have all gotten pied by Burnett during the season after hitting a walk-off hit or home run.

He even showed how much of a class act he truly is by staying at Yankee Stadium late Thursday night. After a near three-hour rain delay, the Yankees defeated the Oakland A’s somewhere around 12:30 AM.

After the game, the Yankees brought out Camp Sundown onto the field and held carnival-like activities on the field.

Camp Sundown is a special retreat camp held in Craryville, NY and it is for those with Xeroderma Pigmentosum, or XP, (a rare genetic disorder affecting approximately 250 in the U.S. and 3,000 worldwide), that causes the body to be unable to repair cells damaged by UV light.

Burnett was one of the many Yankees to stay at the stadium until about 4 AM, when the festivities at Yankee Stadium were concluded.

Off the field, Burnett has been a great teammate and nothing short of a class act. On the field, he has been worth every penny the Yankees have paid him.

So far, he’s made the Yankees look extremely smart by getting him in the winter.

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