A.J. Burnett: Like it or not, Yankees fans, he's your last hope
A.J. Burnett wasn't even supposed to get a start during the American League division series. But now New York Yankees fans are depending on the unreliable pitcher with the $82.5-million contract to help extend their team's season.
Burnett (11-11, 5.15 ERA) will take on Detroit starter Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75 ERA) in an elimination game for the Yankees on Tuesday; the Tigers lead the five-game series, 2-1.
“People are entitled to their opinion. Obviously, I give them reasons here and there to doubt,” Burnett said before Monday's 5-4 loss to the Tigers. “The bottom line is I have confidence in myself. My teammates have confidence in me.”
The same does not go for many Yankees fans. The comments are coming in at a furious pace on Twitter. Some samples:
"Our season lays in the hands of none other than AJ Burnett. What did I ever do to deserve this?!"
"the fact that the future of the yanks postseason lies with AJ Burnett makes me have an upset stomach"
"For Yankees fans, the most frightening righthander in the series isn't (Detroit's Justin) Verlander, but Burnett."
"so AJ Burnett is pitching tonight? Hope Jeter called his caddy. He'll be free to golf in FL as of tomorrow."
Burnett had an ERA of 11.36 in August but fared much better during the last month of the season, going 2-0 with a 4.30 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. Still, he was not part of the Yankees' starting rotation for the ALDS until Game 1 was stretched to two days because of rain.
That meant, like it or not, Burnett is the man for Game 4. And unlike all those tweeting fans, Manager Joe Girardi says he believes in in his starter.
“I feel good about what A.J. is going to do for us tomorrow,” Girardi said Monday.
-- Chuck Schilken
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo: A.J. Burnett. Credit: Kathy Kmonicek / Associated Press