When the Yankees broke from spring training, Jorge Posada was catching A.J. Burnett. Posada caught Burnett’s first four starts, and those starts went pretty well. The Yankees won three of them, Burnett had a 3.20 ERA and Posada was hitting .316 with five home runs in his first 15 games.
Then Posada was hit by a pitch in Baltimore. The next day, Posada was available in an emergency only, and so Francisco Cervelli caught Burnett’s eight scoreless innings against the Baltimore. In so many ways, that was the first step that led the Yankees to tonight’s game.
“It was a day to give Jorge off,” Joe Girardi said. “I think Jorge was hurt a couple of days, and we went with Cervi, and we stuck with Cervi. It was just a day to give him off. It seemed to work out pretty well. We had a rotation, and I just stayed with it.”
Since April 23, Posada has caught Burnett four times. There were back-to-back starts in June when Burnett didn’t pitch beyond the fourth. There was August 2, when Burnett allowed eight runs in 4.2 innings. And there was September 17 when Posada came off the bench to catch Burnett for one inning, and Burnett promptly allowed a home run.
“Maybe Cervi has a better idea, in a sense, what to do in a certain situation,” Girardi said. “I’m a big believer in the catcher-pitcher relationship because I went through it. It’s one thing that I understand. I don’t understand the relationship between a shortstop and second baseman, or a second baseman and first baseman, or the outfielders. But I do understand that (catcher-pitcher) relationship, and I think it’s important to have consistency.”
Sticking with a catching rotation made some sense in the regular season. Posada was banged up so often in the early months, it made sense to give him regular days off, and it made sense to make those regular days off line up with the same pitchers. Last postseason, it made sense to stick with that catcher-pitcher matchup because Burnett and Jose Molina clearly found a rhythm together.
This year, it hasn’t mattered which catcher has been behind the plate. Burnett hasn’t found consistency with anyone. Girardi said his decision would not have been different even if Posada were hitting in the playoffs.
“I don’t think so because the focus is always preventing runs,” Girardi said. “If you shut a team down, you can win a game 1-0. That’s not anything against Jorge, but these two have been together a lot more and I want to keep that together.”
Associated Press photo