NEW YORK (AP) — With the Yankees trailing Texas 2-1 in the AL championship series following an 8-0 loss, A.J. Burnett starts Game 4 Tuesday night trying to get New York back to even.
He last pitched Oct. 2 and was banished to the bullpen for the first-round series against Minnesota.
“I think he’s going to come out, and I think he’s going to pitch well in the strike zone,” Brett Gardner said after Monday night’s 8-0 wipeout in Game 3. “He’s going to get ahead, and I think he’s going to give us a chance to win.”
Burnett was 1-7 from Aug. 1 on as he struggled to throw curves for strikes, finishing a miserable regular season in which he was 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA. Among 92 qualifying pitchers in the major leagues, only Kansas City’s Kyle Davies (5.34) and Detroit’s Jeremy Bonderman (5.53) had higher ERAs. Burnett’s 78 walks were tied for the 15th-most.
Still, his teammates believe in him — maybe because they have no choice.
“We have confidence in everybody regardless of who’s pitching,” captain Derek Jeter said. “We have confidence in A.J. He’ll be ready.”
Because of his poor performances, Burnett knows many Yankees fans thought the team should have skipped his turn and brought back ace CC Sabathia on three days’ rest.
“I hear it everywhere, but I’m not really paying attention to it,” Burnett said. “I know a lot of things have been written. I don’t read a lot. I don’t dig into it too much.”
Burnett was 1-1 in five postseason starts for the Yankees last year, beating Philadelphia in Game 2 of the World Series and losing to the Phillies on short rest in Game 5.
But this isn’t the same Burnett. He allowed opponents to hit .285 against him, ranking 82nd among qualifying pitchers. Last year, he held batters to a .247 average, the 31st-best.
“I’m going to feed off what I did last year,” he said. “I told a few people, my seasons have been similar. The only difference is that I have three or four good games toward the end last year where everybody is more confident.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wouldn’t say whether regular catcher Jorge Posada will start Game 4 or be replaced by backup Francisco Cervelli. Burnett was 2-3 with a 7.28 ERA when Posada was the starting catcher this year and 7-10 with a 4.66 ERA when Cervelli started, according to STATS LLC.
“I have no worries Jorge can handle me,” Burnett said.
Burnett was a little late for his interview room appearance at Yankee Stadium on Monday. The pitcher lost track of time at a Halloween store shopping for his kids.
What did he buy?
“Vampire fangs,” he said.
As if Yankees fans weren’t scared enough.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.