All spring A.J. Burnett talked about the development of his changeup, but the development of his two-seam fastball seems to have made a bigger difference this season. Burnett still goes to the changeup occasionally — very occasionally — but he’s started mixing quite a few two-seamers, and that was the pitch Joe Girardi praised after tonight’s dominant start against Cleveland.
“I know they’re an aggressive team and they can hit,” Burnett said. “I was just trying to attack and get early contact. Not trying to blow it by them or get in strikeout counts so I can strike them out. It was pretty much attacking guys and pitching to contact and trusting my stuff.”
Pitching to contact helped Burnett last through the eighth inning. Of his final 10 outs, five were strikeouts, four were ground outs and only one was hit in the air.
“I didn’t really know he threw one before I got here,” catcher Chad Moeller said. “Being on the other side it was always a straight four-seamer. He has great life on it. It’s really helpful for him going in to right-handers and for balls away to left-handers, as far as to try to get a ground ball.”
In or out, the bottom line is to keep the two-seamer in the bottom of the zone. Or lower if necessary.
“Down being the emphasis,” Moeller said. “And let it move.”