At some point during Wednesday’s game in the Bronx, I was standing at the back of the press box talking to two other writers. It was mostly small talk about the trade deadline, and at some point this question was asked:
With the Yankees rotation exactly as it is right now, who gets the ball in Game 2 of the division series?
Freddy Garcia’s name was mentioned but quickly dismissed. Same for Phil Hughes. Ultimately, the debate came down to Bartolo Colon and A.J. Burnett. The conversation went in circles, debating everything from whether pitchers care which game they start to whether it’s more important to have a reliable starter in Game 2 or 3. I’m not sure we ever came to a consensus.
Joe Girardi was asked how important it would be to have Burnett step up these last two months and solidify himself as a no-doubt, No. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia.
“I think it’s way too early to start thinking about that,” Girardi said. “We just need A.J. to continue to go out and pitch well. I’ll worry about numbers later, where they fall into line. We just need A.J. to go pitch well.”
Burnett’s numbers in July haven’t been great. He’s not allowed more than four runs in a start this month and opponents are hitting just .239 against him, but he’s pitched out of the sixth inning only once, he has a 4.94 ERA, and opponents are slugging .443.
Two numbers that surprised me about Burnett’s season: His WHIP is lower than Dave Robertson’s, and his opponents batting average is lower than everyone on the team except Sabathia, Robertson and Cory Wade.
Unless the Yankees can find a no-doubt No. 2 starter, I think there’s a chance they’ll stay quiet at the deadline and move forward with what they have. If that’s the case, a down-the-stretch emergence from Burnett — starting tonight — could add some comfort come October.
“We’ve gotten this far with them, and they’ve pitched pretty well,” Girardi said. “If you look at our starting rotation, the ERAs are pretty good for the most part. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the next (three) days, but these guys are pitching well.”
Associated Press photo