A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees sits in...

A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees sits in the dugout during the third inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 9, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

A.J. Burnett had tried everything, apparently. So he showed up at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night with his hair cut short on top and buzzed to nothing on the sides, and dyed platinum blond.

Why not? Burnett told the New York Post the other day that he needed to have more fun. Blonds are supposed to have more fun.

But after Burnett imploded vs. the Angels in the sixth inning, manager Joe Girardi has to make the unkindest cut of all.

Girardi said he expects to trim his six-man rotation to five soon, anyway. Burnett, paid like a No. 2 but pitching like a No. 6, should be the odd man out.

Girardi can give Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes a month or so of uninterrupted rotation work to see if they can prosper without having to worry about getting shipped to the minors (Nova) or used out of the bullpen (Hughes).

Burnett? He can do what failed starters used to do -- go to the bullpen and work as the long man. That was before contracts, and not performance, dictated who gets the ball every fifth day.

Burnett is in the third year of a five-year, $82.5-million deal. He helped the Yankees win the World Series in 2009. Neither of those facts means he gets a lifetime rotation spot.

"I haven't won a game in forever," Burnett said. "It gives a lot of people the right to say that. You hear the boos . . . I'm going to stay positive. I threw the ball well tonight. I kept my team in it."

He allowed four runs in six innings after throwing scoreless ball for the first five. Then came the sixth and Bobby Abreu's leadoff home run to tie the game at 1.


One out later, Burnett walked Mark Trumbo on four pitches. Double uh-oh. Trumbo entered the game with 19 unintentional walks in 402 plate appearances.

At that moment, a warning sign should have gone off in Girardi's mind. When Burnett loses focus, he loses it fast. But Girardi said the Trumbo walk didn't raise any red flags for him.

Vernon Wells followed with a long drive to the warning track in left-centerfield. Curtis Granderson ran it down. But Trumbo, in typical aggressive Angels fashion, tagged up and went to second.

That mattered because of what happened next. Girardi ordered an intentional walk to Maicer Izturis, who had singled twice in two at-bats and was 8-for-21 (.381) vs. Burnett.

"I just liked the matchup a little better," Girardi said.

Questionable strategy. Burnett is the master of giving up the big inning. Izturis is a middling hitter. No other manager had seen fit to intentionally walk him this season.

"I'm on board with whatever Skip says," Burnett said unconvincingly. "That's out of our control . . . Just got to get the next guy."

Burnett fired the first intentional ball way high and outside. Russell Martin had to leap to bring it down. Another bad sign.

So was the walk to Peter Bourjos that followed to load the bases. And the two-run double to deep center by No. 9 batter Jeff Mathis, a .181 hitter entering the game. And the wild pitch that gave the Angels a 4-1 lead.

The Yankees rallied to tie it in the seventh, sparing Burnett his 10th loss, in their eventual 6-4 defeat. In his last 12 outings, Burnett is 2-6 with a 5.51 ERA. He hasn't won since June 29.

Girardi said he's not thinking about taking him out of the rotation. Burnett said he's not thinking about it either. But six doesn't fit into five. Somebody's getting yanked.

Burnett has blond hair today. He should be gone tomorrow. At least out of the rotation.