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Burnett suffers lacerations on pitching hand in fit of anger

New York Yankees' A.J. Burnett delivers a pitch

New York Yankees' A.J. Burnett delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays. (July 17, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

An embarrassed A.J. Burnett stood at his locker and took question after question, repeating several times he is "100 percent" certain it won't happen again.

In a fit of anger after yesterday's second inning, Burnett stormed into the clubhouse, threw both arms forward and slammed the set of double doors at the back of the clubhouse.

Both hands scraped across the hard plastic coverings that hold that day's lineup and schedule, with his right hand bearing the brunt of the blow.

The jolt caused lacerations to his pitching hand, and Joe Girardi lifted Burnett after he faced two batters in the third.

The outburst almost relegated the 10-5 loss to the Rays, which allowed Tampa Bay to move within two games of the Yankees, to almost secondary status.

"I'm embarrassed at the whole situation," said Burnett, who described the lacerations as "very minor" and said he definitely will make his next start.

Still, it's a situation he said he will apologize for in front of the team before today's game. He apologized to Girardi and Brian Cashman yesterday.

Will he face any discipline from the team? "We have taken care of everything,'' Girardi said, "and we'll move forward."

As for Burnett's message to the team, he said it will be a simple one. "Just how I regret what I did," Burnett said. "I'm a .500 [career] pitcher, so I've dealt with my inconsistency and I've learned to adjust from that and I didn't do that today. I let myself down, I let them down."

Burnett also was ashamed of how he handled the situation in its immediate aftermath. At first, he told trainers he slipped while going up the stairs and suffered the injury when he braced himself. When Girardi asked him point-blank, he came clean.

"I'm an honest person. I don't need to make up a lie to try and hide something," Burnett said. "I told Cash that when I apologized. I need to tell the truth, and that's what happened."

Burnett took the mound for the third inning but hit Evan Longoria, threw a wild pitch and allowed an RBI single by Carlos Peña to give the Rays a 4-2 lead. Girardi and trainer Gene Monahan immediately popped out of the dugout to check on Burnett. After a brief discussion, Girardi called for righty Dustin Moseley, who allowed four runs in the fifth that effectively put the game away for the Rays (55-35).

Burnett (7-8) allowed four runs, four hits and two hit batsmen in two-plus innings. In his previous two starts, in which he allowed two runs in 132/3 innings, Burnett looked as if he had rediscovered what he had lost during his five straight defeats in June. But despite retiring the first two batters in each of the first two innings, he allowed three runs, including the first of two homers by Reid Brignac (five RBIs).

Theories abound on why a pitcher with Burnett's stuff isn't better than his 107-92 career record, and the 33-year-old provided a reminder of the most discussed theory - that he simply can't control his emotions.

"It's not something that A.J. is proud of," Girardi said. "It's not something I want our players to do. Mr. Steinbrenner deemed Paul O'Neill 'The Warrior,' and he hit more things than anyone I've ever seen. Some guys just are better at expressing their frustration than others.''

"A.J. has won a lot of big games for us. He really has. And I know that sometimes we talk a lot about A.J. I will continue to talk to him about [his emotions]; it's not the proper way to do it, and we need you, and we need you healthy. But sometimes in the heat of competition, guys express themselves in the wrong way."


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