At this point, only the need for six arms is keeping A.J. Burnett in the starting rotation.
But Thursday’s scheduled appearance in Boston’s Fenway Park may be the final chance for right-handed pie-thrower, whose recent pitching resembles more Punkin Chunkin than artistry. In fact, if manager Joe Girardi decides he’s seen enough of Burnett as he cuts the rotation from six to five in the near future, Burnett could very well be headed somewhere beyond the back end of the bullpen bench. Say, to another team.
The problem with trading him in the offseason is, who wants him? Burnett (9-11, 5.31 ERA) cost the Yankees $16.5 million this year, and still has two years on his five-year, $82.5 million deal. He’s 1-2 in August with an 11.91 ERA, and that includes this past weekend’s five-inning, nine-run meltdown in Baltimore.
Now, he faces the prospect of going to Fenway to face a team he has never beaten as a Yankee (0-4, 8.71 in eight starts).
The odd thing is, Burnett knows exactly what he has to do to straighten himself out.
Pitch inside. Unfortunately, he relishes that about as much as getting a root canal.
“I need to pitch in more,” Burnett told the Bergen Record. “I know guys are sitting and waiting.”
He can count Girardi among them.
“We need him to pitch better,” Girardi told the reporters before Sunday’s split of a day-night doubleheader in Baltimore. “If we’re going to win the AL East, we’re going to need to pitch better.”
Burnett’s situation may have reached the indefensible stage. Even general manager Brian Cashman, a staunch Burnett supporter, couldn’t sugarcoat his latest effort.
“It is what it is,” Cashman told the Daily News. “He’s obviously pitching terribly right now.”
One gets the feeling the Yankees would love to simply get rid of the problem. But finding an offseason taker might be impossible.
Maybe that’s why they’re not even talking about that kind of move.