Saturday, October 2, 2010

AJ Burnett fighting for postseason start

AJ Burnett is fighting for his postseason life as a starting pitcher tonight.

It's impossible to overstate the importance of tonight's game for AJ. Burnett must pitch well if he has any hopes of starting a game in the playoffs. The New York Yankees will put him on the postseason roster regardless of how he does because they know how important Burnett is for their long-term future, given that he's only just completing the second year of his five-year deal. Not putting him on the team would be a major blow to his psyche. But if he wants to start a game, he's going to have to show the Yankees that he can still step up when the stakes are high.

The Yankees will be watching Andy Pettitte too, but mostly for health and command. He's going to start one and possibly two games in the first round of the playoffs. If Pettitte proves he is all set to go, that makes Burnett's start even more critical for the erratic righty. A healthy Andy would allow the Yankees to go with a three-man rotation of CC Sabathia, Pettitte and Phil Hughes in the American League Division Series, giving the Bombers the option of skipping Burnett.

Joe Girardi hasn't given a signal of which way he is leaning, but it's not difficult to imagine that if he doesn't get at least six innings and only three or four runs from Burnett, that we won't see AJ starting a game in the ALDS. Mike Francesa asked Girardi if it was important that Burnett pitch well tonight.

"It's important for all of us involved," Girardi replied.

That may be the understatement of the year.

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