A.J. Burnett couldn’t figure it out. It was the second inning. He’d allowed a single and thrown a wild pitch in the first inning, and now he’d given up a double and a walk. He kept landing on his heel, and he had no idea why. Larry Rothschild went to the mound, the two talked, and Burnett retired 14 of the next 16.
Brilliant work by Rothschild? Maybe, but it wasn’t even his decision to go out there.
“It was actually probably the first time in my career I actually called a pitching coach out,” Burnett said. “I was landing on my heel constantly, couldn’t correct it. I called him out and just basically said, ‘I’m landing on my heel. What’s going on?’ He was like, ‘Forget about that. Next pitch, just let it go. You’re fine.’ And it worked.”
That seems to be Rothschild’s approach with Burnett. We’ve been hearing for years that Burnett has some of the best stuff in baseball, now Rothschild is telling him to go out and use it. Stop thinking so much.
“With Larry, it’s all confidence, and that’s what it should be at this level,” Burnett said. “You’ve been pitching long enough where you should go out and feel confident that your stuff is good enough. A lot of the times when we talk, that’s all it is. I’ll ask him certain things, and he’s like, ‘Don’t think about that, just let it go.’”
Tonight was one of those nights that might have gotten out of hand last season. Burnett was in enough trouble early that the game could have gone either way. Having a lead helped, Burnett said. It let him relax through those rocky first two innings, and when he got his mechanics straightened out, Burnett was terrific and efficient.
He’s now won his first three starts for the first time in his career. His 4.67 ERA proves he hasn’t been perfect, but he hasn’t had a truly bad start yet. Why is this April different from last April?
“I don’t know if it is,” Burnett said.
“I think you’re seeing the work is paying off,” Joe Girardi said. “We know it’s a long season, but it sure beats the alternative.”
Here’s Burnett speaking after the game.
• Granted, the start wasn’t all roses for Burnett. He made two bad mistakes in the seventh inning and gave up two home runs, putting a significant blemish on an otherwise strong outing. “I’m going to think about that a little bit,” Burnett said. “I didn’t execute anything that inning. You learn from that, and that’s when you have to learn how to really get it done.”
• Could his pitch count — he was right around 100 at that point — have hurt Burnett in the seventh? “I don’t necessarily think so,” Girardi said. “At some point, all of these guys have to get to where they can go 115 pitches.” Girardi did admit that he might have pulled Burnett after the first home run if this had been a closer game.
• Random Burnett story: As you’re well aware, he has a tendency to get pretty intense. Apparently Ivan Nova constantly tells him to stop getting so mad. Nova told Burnett he was going to start following him around to make sure he didn’t get upset with himself.
• It’s worth noting that Burnett was once again singing the praises of Russell Martin, who wore bright orange finger nail polish with a white stripe down the middle to make his signs easier to read. “He’s taken a lot of time, you can tell, to really get to know us and figure us out,” Burnett said.
• As for the offense, the Yankees had nine hits in the first two innings. They had two hits in the past three days (granted, while playing only one game). “Maybe those couple of days (off) helped.”,” Girardi said.
• Alex Rodriguez’s first inning home run moved him into a tie with Al Simmons and Ted Williams for 11th place on baseball’s all-time RBI list. “Any time you hear those names it’s extremely flattering and humbling at the same time,” Rodriguez said.
• Derek Jeter’s two hits gave him 2,935 for his career, tying Barry Bonds for 32nd place on baseball’s list. I wonder if that’s flattering and humbling for Jeter.
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Martin is the only catcher in the majors to have caught all of his team’s innings this season.
• When Jorge Posada went deep in the fifth inning, his past four hits this season had all been home runs. He later singled to break the streak.
• Mark Teixeira went 2-for-3 with a walk and snapped an 0-for-18 slide.
• Mariano Rivera has saved all five of the Yankees home wins this season. The guy is quite good.
• The Yankees and Orioles are now tied for first place in the American League East.
Associated Press photos, including one of Kemba Walker’s first pitch nevermind, forgot I took that one out