I know many die-hard Yankee fans have been waiting for a sign from Yankee decision makers that AJ Burnett is in danger of losing his spot in the Yankee rotation. To date, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have been staunch defenders of AJ, but at least one of those men have opened the door for dropping him from the current 6 man rotation. Mark Fiensand of the New York Daily News has the details. First set of quotes come from Yankee manager Joe Girardi:
“With all these doubleheaders, we’ve got to play games,” Girardi said. “We need six men.”
Asked if Burnett might benefit from being skipped a turn in the rotation, Girardi immediately shot down the idea.
“We can’t,” Girardi said. “I don’t know if we can. Look at our schedule.”
That’s true, but only for this coming week. Here’s the schedule. The Yanks have a doubleheader this afternoon where Ivan Nova and Bartolo Colon will start. With a doubleheader today and no off days until September 15th, you need AJ to make his next start against the Red Sox this Thursday to keep everyone else from throwing on short rest. But after Thursday, you can go back to a 5 man for the rest of the month. (NOTE-There may be another DH with the Rays during the last home stand, but it has yet to be scheduled). Brian Cashman may have alluded to this with the following set of quotes from the same article:
Cashman wouldn’t speculate on Burnett’s future in the rotation.
“We’ll deal with it when we’re in a position to deal with it,” Cashman said. “When we have to make a decision, we’ll have to make a decision. Obviously, he’s not pitching well.”
Cashman, who has rushed to Burnett’s defense during the past month, didn’t take the opportunity to deliver a vote of confidence to his maligned starter.
“It is what it is,” Cashman said. “He’s obviously pitching terribly right now.”
That decision may be coming fairly soon. It’s unavoidable to have him make his next turn facing the Red Sox, but after that the rationale for the 6 man goes by the wayside for at least the next 3 weeks. The Yanks were previously on the record being against a 6 man, citing Sabathia’s displeasure with the idea and a desire to keep everyone else in their regular routines. The schedule has forced them to keep it temporarily, but once you get past this Thursday that will no longer be the case. It must be noted they have also hinted recently that they’d like to skip Colon at some point, to give his 38 year old arm a break. He would have to go 2 more turns through the rotation before an off day on 9/15 would allow you to do that. Or, you could have Colon and AJ take turns as the #5 for the rest of the month. But however you want to do it, the rotation needs to be reexamined once you get past the Red Sox series. With the way he’s throwing the ball right now, it’s difficult to imagine Burnett having a successful outing facing the high-powered Sox lineup in Fenway. Especially after getting tattooed by the middling O’s and weak hitting Twins in his last two starts. But that may be what he needs to do in order to save his spot in the rotation. In his only start facing the Sox this year on June 8th at Yankee Stadium, Burnett gave up 8 runs in 5.2 IP. Another outing like that and its difficult to imagine the Yankees will continue to run him out there.
UPDATE-Ian Begley of ESPN-NY has just confirmed my take, saying Girardi plans to cut the rotation down to 5 after the Red Sox series. All signs point to that being bad news for AJ, but we’ll cross that bridge after Thursday night.