Because the A.J. Burnett trade was just finalized, it was inevitable that some of the buzz surrounding today’s first Yankees workout would center on a player who’s no longer here. Teammates had positive things to say about Burnett, and speaking to reporters at the Pirates minor league complex, Burnett said he was hoping for a fresh start that would bring some of the “joy” back to baseball.
“It was fun the first couple of years,” Burnett said according to The Associated Press. “Then it got like, I’m never going to get out of this funk… I let a few too many people tinker with me, maybe. When you let that happen, you start doubting yourself sometimes. You wonder, ‘Am I doing it right? Is this how it’s supposed to feel?’ and things like that. In ’09, nobody messed with me. I was able to do what I wanted to do on the mound, whether it was turn around, close my eyes and pitch upside down. Then you have a few bad games and you start changing and listening.”
A few comments on Burnett from Yankees camp…
Russell Martin: “I think sometimes he would let negative thoughts get into his mind and they would affect him a little bit. It wasn’t the fact that he didn’t care or anything; he probably cared more than anybody. He’s just very hard on himself and sometimes over-critical, and when you do that, sometimes you just go the wrong way. That’s what happened with him sometimes; he was over-critical of himself instead of just simplifying the game. He would listen to everybody trying to help him out, and when you do that, it becomes chaotic. I think that’s what was happening in his mind.”
CC Sabathia: “It’s tough. We came into this thing together, and it’s just tough to see him go. But I think it’s the best for him, and we just move on. It’s part of the game, he’s been around a long time, and I think he understands. Just a change of scenery. Sometimes that does well for guys, and hopefully that can do well for him… Our families got really close, our kids, our wives, so it’ll be tough. But like I said, hopefully he stays healthy, and it works out for the best for him.”
Joe Girardi: “From a manager’s standpoint, I felt A.J. did everything we asked him to. He worked hard. He came prepared every day. He gave us his best effort, and he even tried making changes as the years went on. I had a good time with AJ when he was here, and he won some really important games for us. You go back to the game against the Tigers; you go back to Game 2 of the World Series for us. If not for AJ, we may not win that World Series. Obviously you develop relationships, and we developed a good relationship, and I’ll miss him. As I told him, I want to wish him the best of luck to try to continue to improve your trade.”
• Speaking of Martin, he said the Yankees talked to him about a multi-year deal, but those conversations never went very far. “My agent and the Yankees talked a little bit about an extension,” Martin said. “Including this year, they were talking about three years. That’s where the conversation ended. They didn’t really throw any numbers out there. Well, they did, but I’m not going to throw them out there.” For whatever it’s worth, Martin said he loves being with the Yankees.
• It was Francisco Cervelli who caught Hiroki Kuroda today, but obviously Martin knows all about Kuroda from their time together in Los Angeles. “On his good days, he can reach up to 95 with good movement on his fastball and good two-seam sinking action,” Martin said. “He’s got a cutter that he uses, and a curveball that he uses as well. It’s not necessarily a strikeout curveball, but he can throw it for strikes. He’s got a slider and a splitty; his splitty is pretty much his strikeout pitch with his fastball. He’s got good command, and you’ll see, he’s pretty good.”
• Most guys seemed to be throwing around 25-30 pitches in their first bullpens today. One notable exception was Phil Hughes who threw 40. He was easily the last to finish in the first group. He said he’s been throwing for several weeks and Larry Rothschild decided to keep him on that advanced schedule rather than have him scale back now that camp has officially opened.
• Girardi said he has no specific number in mind, but he knows Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter will both need fairly regular DH days this season. He indicated that he’d like to have most of those days come against left-handers, with Eduardo Nunez stepping into the lineup. “It’s just more of a feel more than anything, and watching how he’s moving and watching how he’s responding day after day after day,” Girardi said. “Is it better to give him a DH day? Is it better to give him an off day?”
• Obviously Eric Chavez’s name is still floating out there on the free agent market, and no one seems to be ruling out the possibility of bringing him back to the Yankees. “Not so sure that we wouldn’t make another move before position players report here,” Girardi said. “You always look for depth, and if we can add some depth, we will.”
• Signing Chavez could all but lock up the final spot on the Yankees bench, but there seems to be at least one bullpen spot that’s wide open. “You’ve got to figure out what you’re going to bring in your bullpen,” Girardi said. “Do you bring another lefty? Or bring another right-hander? A guy that gives you distance? There’s a lot of guys that I’m going to pay attention to.”
• Random position player sighting of the day: Corban Joseph showed up briefly to either put something in his locker or take something out.
Associated Press photos