NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Yankees bumped struggling starter A.J. Burnett to the bullpen for the AL playoffs against Minnesota.
Game 1 starter CC Sabathia would pitch on three days’ rest if a Game 4 is necessary. Andy Pettitte will follow Sabathia and start Game 2, with Phil Hughes going in Game 3 back in the Bronx.
The series opens at Minnesota with games on Wednesday and Thursday.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he wants to throw as many lefties as he can against a Twins lineup loaded with dangerous left-handed hitters.
“We felt with all the left-handed hitters we would try to throw four lefties at them in five games,” Girardi said.
The Twins do have slightly better numbers this year against righties. They hit .276 with a .432 slugging percentage and .343 on-base percentage and went 62-44 (.585). Against lefties, they hit .268 with a .400 slugging percentage and .336 on-base percentage while going 32-24 (.571).
Burnett took the news in stride. He was 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA in 33 starts this season. He hasn’t pitched in the bullpen since April 16, 2008, when he appeared for Toronto in the 14th inning against Texas.
“It’d be different if I had a great second half,” Burnett said. “But I took baby steps, not a huge leap. Those three guys (Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes) have been our main starters.”
Burnett joined the Yankees as a free agent before last season, signing an $82.5 million, five-year contract. He pitched well against Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs, allowing one run and three hits in six innings during a Game 2 start.
Girardi also decided to go with Sergio Mitre and Dustin Moseley in the bullpen over Javier Vazquez and Chad Gaudin. The manager kept outfielder Greg Golson as the final position player.
“We really like the way (Mitre’s) sinker has been working lately and the way he has been throwing the ball,” Girardi said.
Girardi left open the possibility that Burnett could start in the series if Sabathia told the Yankees that he didn’t feel good enough physically to pitch on three days’ rest. But if all goes according to plan, Burnett will remain in the bullpen.
“I’m not going to cause drama or be the bad apple,” Burnett said.
Girardi said all his roster decisions were difficult and he appreciated how Burnett handled the news.
“I didn’t know how he would take it,” Girardi said. “But we talked about it and he seemed like he’s on board. He’s going to do whatever he can to help us.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)