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Burnett believes it's time for a change

New York Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett throws against

New York Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during a spring training baseball game. (March 6, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. - When A.J. Burnett talks with reporters, he typically offers a dose of bluntness, especially when doing self-evaluation.

So when a reporter asked the pitcher why, after the success he's had in his career, he's making a big effort in spring training to refine his changeup, Burnett disagreed with the underlying premise of the question.

"I don't feel like I've had the success I should have," said the 33-year-old righthander, 100-85 in his career. "I'm a .500 pitcher and there's a reason for that. I know I've battled injuries in the past, but over three-quarters of my career, I'm a two-pitch pitcher, so there's got to be some theory behind it, so why not learn another pitch? It's only going to help.

"Well, it's not learn - I've always had it - but why not use another pitch?"

Burnett, pitching to Jorge Posada, allowed two runs and five hits in two innings Saturday in the Yankees' 9-1 loss to the Blue Jays. He threw only fastballs and changeups and won't throw curveballs in a game, he said, until probably his third exhibition start.

"Every time I wanted to throw a hook, I threw a changeup," Burnett said. "I'm not too worried about results early. [It was all] fastball, changeup. After a couple hitters, it's not too hard to figure out that's all that I'm throwing."

Burnett said he threw occasional changeups last season, but not enough. When he reviewed some of his top games from 2009, he said there were more changeups - usually five to eight - in the mix.

When thrown correctly, Burnett said, his changeup is "like a [splitter] action; it goes straight down."

It's a pitch that Posada said has the potential to be particularly nasty if Burnett develops enough confidence in it to use it consistently.

"It's going to be 90, 91 mph," Posada said. "It's going to be 5 to 6 mph less than his fastball . . . He's an overpowering fastball guy and we can't get away from that, but having a third pitch is going to keep the hitters off balance. That's the biggest thing."

Burnett said he was inspired to work on his changeup last season by watching CC Sabathia, a teammate he affectionately calls "the big man."

"He's a power guy, I'm a power guy," Burnett said. "Obviously, he throws a lot more than I would throw in a game, but to watch him for the first time and see him use it that much, the counts he used it in, being a power guy who throws 96, 97 with a good slider, and it helped him out a lot."

Burnett said the hardest-hit balls yesterday, doubles by Travis Snider and Jose Bautista, were off fastballs. He said he got some strange looks when he threw changeups.

"You get the look from the hitter like, what was that?" Burnett said. "The guys in the dugout over here were like, is that a cutter?"

Manager Joe Girardi said a pitcher with a good changeup might use it 20 times a game. Burnett is not close to that point, but Posada said, "Now is the perfect time to just experience and use it. Feel comfortable enough to call it and use it."

Said Girardi, "He threw some good changeups today. His velocity was good today. There were positive things."


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