From the outside, the impact of a hitting coach or a pitching coach is always vague at best. Clearly coaches play a role, but how much of a player’s success comes from his own talent and how much comes from outside perspective and understanding? How much of A.J. Burnett’s early season success and recent struggles are because of Dave Eiland?
“I’m not going to lie,” Burnett said. “Dave is a big part of what we do here, and who I am and who our starters are. On the other hand, I’ve been pitching for 11 years now. I think I’d be able to make the adjustment on my own out there.”
Eiland left the team for personal reasons on June 4. Burnett pitched that day and began a string of four straight losses.
“I don’t discount that,” Joe Girardi said. “I wish I knew what exactly it was because we would try to straighten it out. Yeah, Dave has an impact on all of the pitchers. Could it (be part of the problem)? Yeah, but I can’t tell you that’s exactly what it is.”
Now the burden falls on Mike Harkey — who would have been involved to some extent whether Eiland were here or not — to lead the fixing process.
“I don’t think it’s any tougher than it’s always been,” Harkey said. “As a coach period we’re going to go through ups and downs. You’re going to have guys that struggle, and everybody’s going to sit there and put their heads together and try to find answers to it.”
Ultimately, Burnett and Girardi seem to agree that the bulk of the responsibility falls to the pitcher himself. Burnett said has “an idea” of what he needs to fix — he hasn’t felt comfortable out of the windup, which might be a place to start — and he’ll get every opportunity to straighten himself out. Girardi said skipping Burnett’s turn is not in the plans.
“(Eiland) not here is a big loss for all of us,” Burnett said. “I’m not going to point fingers and make excuses at all. I’m out there throwing pitches whether Dave’s in the dugout or not. He’s corrected me enough where I should have it in my memory what Dave says. I’m a man. I’m a professional athlete who’s got a big contract, who’s here for a reason, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do that on your own.”
Here’s Burnett speaking after last night’s game.