Sometimes, it truly comes down to the little things.
With two years remaining on a five-year, $82.5 million contract that is widely recognized as a major disappointment, A.J. Burnett has not given up on his search for the consistency the Yankees had hoped for when they signed him as their number two starter in 2009.
While for some fans, “number two” pretty much sums up his Yankee tenure, Burnett is optimistic that an innovative approach this winter will yield huge dividends.
“I was kicking back with a few cold ones and one of my pies just after the season ended, and I noticed one of Mo’s bobbleheads on the counter,” he said. “I set it in motion, and it moved so fluidly — just like Mo’s delivery — and the gears started turning.”
Burnett has held secretive workouts for the past couple of weeks under the watchful eye of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Rothschild confesses to having had to see it to believe it, and a believer he was after the first 30-pitch session from the new delivery.
“As incredible as it sounds, he’s generating more movement and velocity. It’s just a matter of control,” Rothschild said.
However, Burnett doesn’t view control as his highest priority with his new delivery.
“When I’m around the zone too often, guys are diggin’ in and shelling me,” Burnett reasoned. “I mean, the outfielders can’t get enough Gatorade in the dugout between innings. I think more movement and velocity will benefit me, and the uptick in HBPs will be offset by a drop in my overall pitch count. Bottom line, a one-pitch walk is better than a four-pitch walk, and I can literally put a cramp in the running game. It’s a win-win.”
Yankee skipper Joe Girardi greeted the news with enthusiasm, stating, “A.J. already gives us a lot of innings, and I’m excited by the possibility that some of them might be of quality.”