Sunday, June 27, 2010

Girardi faces pressure to bench struggling AJ


After AJ Burnett's latest disastrous outing, Joe Girardi has started to feel pressure from the media to skip Burnett in the rotation. That pressure will only intensify.

Girardi resisted suggestions that the struggling Burnett should miss a turn in the rotation, even though he twice skipped over Javier Vazquez when he faltered earlier in the season. The move worked with Vazquez, who made a nice comeback after regaining his confidence through bullpen work, most notably getting a key out in relief against the Boston Red Sox. But Girardi doesn't seem eager to pursue that path with Burnett.

In truth, Burnett missing a turn isn't much of an option for Girardi. The New York Yankees are committed to protecting the young Phil Hughes and skipping him will be a bigger priority for them because Hughes is much more important to their long-term future. Additionally, two of Girardi's long men and potential fill-in starters, Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre, are on the disabled list, so having someone else start in AJ's place would leave the Yankees short in the bullpen.

But mostly Girardi seems to genuinely believe that his staff and Burnett are close to figuring out the righty's problems and getting them straightened out. Girardi knows his players better than the rest of us and if he really thinks Burnett is close to getting back to being effective, than he probably is. Or it could just be that Girardi knows a demotion to the bullpen would cause more damage to the emotional pitcher than it's worth.

Regardless, Girardi seems determined to allow Burnett to stay in the rotation and work on his problems. The pressure to skip him will keep rising if Burnett's starts continue to turn into automatic Yankee losses. But extreme pressure is part of Girardi's job as manager of the Yankees and I expect him to stick to his guns.

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