To see what he's capable of doing, A.J. Burnett needs to look no further than Game 2 of last year's World Series.
It's something he very much plans on doing between now and when he makes his upcoming start in the American League Championship Series.
"You could say there's a good shot," Burnett said Tuesday.
That is likely to occur in Game 4, though it's still difficult to imagine that if the Yankees were, for example, trailing two games to one, Burnett would start.
That hypothetical wasn't something manager Joe Girardi was willing to ponder Tuesday.
"I can't tell you what we're going to do situationally because we're not in the situation," he said.
And so all are proceeding as if Burnett, 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA this season, will start this round. He went 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA in April and May and 4-13 with a 6.48 ERA after that, with the Yankees going 5-17 in his final 22 starts.
"I was a little upset but I understood," Burnett said of not pitching in the ALDS. "It's not like it was a shock to me, but at the same time, I am very grateful they're giving me this chance and we'll be ready. I'll just deal with those emotions when they come."
And with not much to fall back on this season, Burnett, who always has acknowledged his biggest obstacle is above his shoulders, will be reviewing the highlight of 2009. That would be Oct. 29 at the Stadium, when he held the Phillies to one run and four hits in seven innings in a 3-1 Yankees victory that evened the Series at 1-1.
What did he see from that pitcher?
"I saw confidence," Burnett said. "I saw a pitcher who didn't try to nibble, threw every pitch with conviction and had a good tempo and good mind-set the whole game. He didn't let anything bother him."
Burnett, who hasn't started since Oct. 2, will throw a five-inning simulated game Wednesday.
"For me what it is, is confidence and conviction, believing in yourself, believing in every pitch," pitching coach Dave Eiland said of Burnett. "Not throwing a certain pitch and hoping it works, before the pitch knowing it's going to work. It's all in the mind-set and we believe A.J. is at that point right now."
Though Eiland, Girardi and Cashman expressed confidence in Burnett, the truth is it would be difficult for the Yankees to get away with using three starters for this year's ALCS, as they did for last year's ALCS, when they went with CC Sabathia, Burnett and Andy Pettitte. But last year's ALCS had a day off between Games 4 and 5, a day off eliminated this year.
"Last year, CC did it once in the ALCS and then each guy did it once in the World Series," Girardi said. "You're asking them to do it a lot. Hughsie's never done it, Andy's coming off an injury so there's some concerns there. If you go Game 7, you're asking CC to do it twice in one series, so that's a concern for us."
A smaller concern for Girardi is the extra rest all of his pitchers and position players will have gotten between Game 3 against the Twins on Oct. 9 and Friday's Game 1. But he'd much rather be in this position, particularly being able to set up his rotation, though he hasn't said who would pitch Games 2 and 3. Both the Rays and Rangers had to use their aces last night.
"If someone had said would you prefer that your starters are on rotation and you had to play five games or that you know they're rested, I kind of like the rest this time of year," Girardi said. "It's a little bit of a concern but I would rather be able to set up your rotation."