Standing atop the pitcher's mound at Yankee Stadium under a cloudless sky at 12:05 p.m. on Wednesday, A.J. Burnett threw the first pitch of a simulated game to Greg Golson.
The ball sailed over Golson's head and went all the way to the backstop of the batting-practice screen the Yankees had set up for the day.
Burnett's fourth pitch hit Golson in the shoulder.
In the fourth "inning,” he hit Austin Kearns in the helmet with a curveball.
Pitching in an empty stadium, with four batters rotating, pitchers shagging fly balls in the outfield and Brett Gardner working on taking leads off third base, Burnett's outing had a spring-training feel.
A little before noon, Burnett walked in from the bullpen with Francisco Cervelli. (A hint as to who will catch Game 4? Perhaps.)
He faced Golson, Kearns, Ramiro Pena and Curtis Granderson – three backups and an everyday player.
Pitching coach Dave Eiland stood behind the mound, shielded by a protective screen. If Burnett needed a new baseball, Eiland would gently toss it to him over the screen.
After hitting Golson in the first, Burnett fooled Kearns so badly that the righthanded hitter’s bat ended up flying all the way to the empty third-base stands. So Burnett still has the stuff. But the number of balls Cervelli had to box in the dirt made it clear he was having a little trouble controlling it.
Burnett’s “innings” consisted of facing four batters, regardless of the result. There were no fielders. In the bottom half of the innings, Javier Vazquez pitched, and then Chad Gaudin.
Burnett pitched a third inning, a fourth, and then faced two batters in a fifth. After Kearns grounded what would have been a routine 5-3, Eiland came around from the back of the screen and shook Burnett’s hand.