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Burnett will play key role in ALDS Game 4

A.J. Burnett looks on from the dugout against

A.J. Burnett looks on from the dugout against the Detroit Tigers during Game 2 of the ALDS. (Oct. 2, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

A.J. Burnett didn't linger on the negative for too long. Instead, he spoke of the opportunity that awaits him.

"It's big," he said of pitching Game 4 Tuesday night in Detroit. "I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully, there's another [start], but I'll be ready. I'm looking forward to going out and helping this team. Give us a chance to get a W."

With the best-of-five series tied 1-1 entering Monday night's Game 3, erratic A.J. could either close out a series win for the Yankees (who will throw their ace CC Sabathia tonight) or tie it at 2-2.

Joe Girardi confirmed that Burnett will start Game 4 hours before Freddy Garcia allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings Sunday in a 5-3 loss to the Tigers. Girardi had the option of using Phil Hughes but said: "The only way I probably would have used Hughes in Game 4 is if we had to use A.J. [Saturday] night. Phil hasn't been stretched out lately."

He then tried to bolster his decision by saying Burnett's pitching in September "was not bad." He added, "You look at the strikeouts per innings, it was a complete turnaround from August."

Burnett initially was told he would be used out of the bullpen in the ALDS, but weather has altered the Yankees' plans and Girardi told him to "be ready just in case" Saturday.

The righthander, who finished the regular season 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, said the adjustment to the bullpen was "a little different, but it wasn't too bad." He's excited about getting back in his usual routine, especially in a big spot.

It's been two years since he's pitched in a game of this magnitude: Game 2 of the 2009 World Series against the Phillies. Burnett allowed one run in seven innings to help propel the Yankees to a 3-1 victory at the Stadium.

"It's my chance to get on the mound, to be a part of something and to get my start and do what I can as long as I can until Joe takes me out," he said.

Burnett agreed that his most recent outings have been his best, adding that the rediscovery of his off-speed stuff has made a big difference. That's why it stung when Girardi initially opted to start Ivan Nova in Game 2 and Garcia in Game 3 before Friday night's rain moved each up one game. "[I was] disappointed, of course," Burnett said. "Who wouldn't be? But at the same time, it's my teammates, it's my team."

New York Sports