The conversation came between starts, some time between A.J. Burnett’s nine-run debacle in Baltimore and his got-the-job-done start tonight in Boston.
“When we talked, it was basically me telling him what I’d seen through time,” Larry Rothschild said. “I don’t want to get into details of the conversation. I said, ‘Look, you might not like what I say, but here’s what’s out there. Here’s where I think we have to go.’ And he was great. Really good… I give him a lot of credit for what he did tonight.”
This was the first time since June 29 that Burnett allowed fewer than three runs in a start. He lasted just 5.1 innings, but he made only one critical mistake tonight, and that was the two-run homer to Dustin Pedroia. Other than the first two batters in the fourth, he didn’t let a runner past first base until the sixth.
“I felt pretty comfortable for the most part, new gig and all,” Burnett said. “I was just really relaxed out there tonight and went one pitch at a time. I didn’t miss over the plate a lot. I missed over the plate basically twice, both to Pedroia. My misses were down and even though I was behind on a lot of guys, they weren’t able to square a lot up because of that.”
Burnett’s new “gig” is a slight change to his mechanics. He’s changed where his hands start — both in the windup and out of the stretch — and there’s less of a turn in his delivery.
“Minor changes,” he said. “But major to a guy who’s been pitching the same way for 11 years. I looked at it with an open mind and it felt good… It’s definitely something I can work with. I felt real comfortable out there. I’ve only really been working on that for three days. I’ve been pitching the same way for 11 years, so it’s a big change, but as the game went on I felt more comfortable.”
No sense painting this as the start of a turnaround. It’s one start after two months of disappointment, but it was a glimpse of the reason Burnett got that five-year contract in the first place. He can be a good Major League starter, and the Yankees best-case scenario doesn’t involved finally dumping Burnett to the bullpen. It involves getting Burnett pitching well again.
“We need A.J.,” Russell Martin said. “And I think Larry had a big part in it, just simplifying a couple of the things in his mechanics just to get him consistent in his delivery. And then from there it was just him executing pitches, and we were on the same page for the most part of the game. It was good for him to fill that role against a really good lineup.”
Final word from Rothschild: “The one thing that he’s done is competed all along. Even in the toughest games, the toughest circumstances, he’s competing. That’s a pretty good place to start.”
• The Major League debut of Jesus Montero was rather forgettable. The Yankees top hitting prospect went 0-for-4 with a hit by pitch. In his first three at-bats, he ended three innings with a total of six runners left stranded. But still, it was a debut, and four at-bats mean nothing in the course of a career.
“It means a lot for me, for my life,” Montero said. “Thank God I’m here for the first time and the first opportunity that I got to play in the big leagues. It was amazing for me today. After the first at-bat I feel more comfortable and I hit more well. I didn’t get the base hit, but I hope soon.”
• The big base hit, instead, came from the current Yankees catcher. Martin’s two-run double in the seventh turned everything around. Up to that moment, the Yankees had stranded 12 runners in the first six innings. “We just couldn’t seem to get the big hit off of Lester,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s a strikeout guy, so he’s going to sometimes have the bases loaded and get out of it. We got him out early, got him out after five and we were able to capitalize on some scoring chances after we got him out.”
• Terrific at-bat by Andruw Jones to start that seventh inning. His walk came after 14 pitches. Everyone in the clubhouse seemed to mention it at least once. Jones tied a career-high with three walks in the game, something he hadn’t done since 2006.
• Also plenty of talk about the Curtis Granderson catch in the sixth. That was a diving play that saved at least one run, maybe two. Might have been the difference in the game. “The Grandy man,” Burnett said. “He can do it all can’t he?”
• Mark Teixeira has a bruised right knee and he’s day-to-day. No x-rays were taken, and no tests are planned, but Girardi said he’s not sure Teixeira will be able to play tomorrow. Teixeira tried to stay in the game, but after playing defense for a half inning, his knee got stiff. “I couldn’t move,” he said.
• Robinson Cano had his team-leading 43rd multi-hit game.
• Derek Jeter played his 2,405th game, passing Mike Schmidt for the 15th-most games played all with same team. He went 2-for-4 tonight and is hitting .347 since coming off the disabled list.
• Boone Logan struck out the only batter he faced for the fifth time this season, the most such appearances in the American League.
• The Yankees lost eight of nine against the Red Sox in the first half, but since the all-star break, these teams are 3-3 against one another. “We didn’t play very well the first nine games against them,” Girardi said. “They beat us up pretty good, but we’ve pitched a lot better against them and our at-bats have been a lot better.”
• Last word on the Red Sox comes from Martin: “It feels good. I’ve been saying the whole time, I don’t think there’s a team better than the other. Every time we play them it’s one of those things where, the team that plays the best that day is going to win. And today we just played a little bit better than them. It’s going to be like that from here on out. If we see them in the playoffs, it’s going to be the same way.”
Associated Press photos