TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild says pitcher A.J. Burnett is positioned well heading into the start of spring training next week.
Burnett is coming off a disappointing season in which he went 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA in 33 starts, including 4-13 with a 6.48 ERA over the final four months and 1-7 from Aug. 1 on.
“His arm is healthy and his head is in a good spot,” Rothschild said Thursday. “There’s a lot of positives there. Where it goes from here we’ll see. I think he’s coming in with the right intention in mind and that’s a good place to start.”
Last year, Burnett had the third-highest ERA among 92 qualifying pitchers in the major leagues, topped only by Kansas City’s Kyle Davies (5.34) and Detroit’s Jeremy Bonderman (5.53).
Rothschild and Burnett worked together for two days this winter, with mechanics a focal point.
“I think to get him right mechanically and get him to throw the ball the way that he can, I think you’ll see a different presence on the mound,” Rothschild said. “He’s got a good attitude about things.”
New York’s biggest concern appears to be its starting rotation following the retirement of Andy Pettitte. The Yankees have two openings behind CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Burnett.
Barring a trade, Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon among those competing for the final two starting spots.
“Hopefully, the decisions made are tough because they’ve all pitched well,” Rothschild said. “We don’t want it to be a tough decision because we don’t know which way to go.”
New York’s bullpen, which already included closer Mariano Rivera along with Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Boone Logan, added Rafael Soriano and left-hander Pedro Feliciano in the offseason.
Chamberlain worked out of bullpen last season after Hughes won the final rotation spot. By the end of the season, Chamberlain lost the eighth-inning job to Kerry Wood.
“He came up and did so much so early, it was kind of a tough act to follow,” Rothschild said. “It’s just that he came up so quick and was such a rock star because of what he did. It’s basically, look, the stuff is there. With him, I think it’s settling in and more day to day as far as getting it done.”
Rothschild, hired in November to replace Dave Eiland, has been working with pitchers at the team’s minor league complex for the past month.
Yankees pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report for spring training on Monday.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.