A.J. Burnett has Mother Nature to thank.
Joe Girardi's original plan had been to use a three-man rotation, featuring CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, against the Tigers in the ALDS. But now it looks as though the beleaguered Burnett will get to start in the series after all, assuming it goes four games.
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Girardi's hand was forced when rain suspended play Friday night in the second inning, wasting a marquee matchup between Sabathia and Justin Verlander. Play resumed Saturday night with Ivan Nova and Doug Fister -- the original Game 2 starters -- on the mound.
Though Girardi stopped short of officially declaring Burnett (11-11, 5.15 ERA) his go-to guy for Game 4 Tuesday, he strongly hinted that that's the decision he's heading toward.
"That's something we've got to talk about," he said of his Game 4 starter. "A.J.'s a great candidate for that day."
Though he opted to go with Garcia over Burnett for Game 3, Girardi said before Saturday night's game that he feels comfortable with Burnett pitching in a postseason game. "He's pitched well against this team,'' he said.
Girardi made it seem as if his once-wavering confidence in Burnett now is as strong as ever. Questioned about Burnett's reliability, Girardi cited his effective outing in Seattle on Sept. 13. "And then he had a start here against Minnesota [Sept. 19] and it kind of got away from him a little bit," he said. "But then he had a good start against the Red Sox [Sept. 25], so we saw it start to turn around the last couple starts."
As of Saturday afternoon, Girardi said he had yet to discuss the Game 4 starting spot with Burnett. When asked why he was waiting so long to sit down with him, Girardi said: "Obviously, we'll talk to him."
The weather might have put another wrinkle in Girardi's plans had Game 1 been resumed Friday night. He said he likely would have used Burnett after a lengthy rain delay, leaving the righthander unavailable to start Game 4.
"That's probably what I would have done," Girardi said. "I didn't even think of that because when I came in, I looked at the radar and said, 'It doesn't look too good here.' "