Last night, A.J. Burnett told this short story: When he was in Toronto, Burnett played with catcher Gregg Zaun, and Zaun had a name for show-me pitches that weren’t effective. He called them NCPs, non-competitive pitches.
To some extent, Burnett’s changeup has always been an NCP. He never used it very often and it seemed to be little more than an offspeed pitch he wanted to keep in hitters’ minds but not actual use during hitters’ at-bats. This season, he’s actually used it, and it’s been pretty good. He’s learning to trust it.
“We threw 16 of them (Wednesday), so I guess so,” Burnett said. “As long as he keeps throwing them down there, I’ll keep throwing them.”
In this case, “he” is Burnett’s new catcher, Russell Martin, who’s been calling for the changeup since spring training.
“It took me 12 years to throw a changeup,” Burnett said. “He believes in it, and I’m starting to more and more.”
What helped Burnett after the first two innings last night?
“I thought his changeup was outstanding tonight,” Joe Girardi said. “He got a lot of swings and misses. He got some swings and misses on his curveball, but I thought his changeup was really good.”
What’s making a difference for Burnett this season?
“I think strike one, throwing the ball with a lot of conviction,” Alex Rodriguez said. “The power changeup is a pitch that’s devastating. He hasn’t had that in the past. He’s mixing it in, and I think it neutralizes lefties (and) it speeds up his fastball.”
What happens if the changeup is not so effective one night? Will he bail on it?
“I don’t want to think about that,” Russell Martin said. “When it happens we’ll see what happens. If there’s a day it’s not doing what it’s supposed to, we’ll figure it out, but right now I don’t see any sign of that (effectiveness) changing.”
Associated Press photo