Monday, August 22, 2011

AJ Burnett burning his Yankee bridges?

Has AJ Burnett finally burned his bridges with the New York Yankees? Seems like it.

Less than two weeks ago, Brian Cashman firmly defended Burnett against his critics in the media and Yankees universe. His manager Joe Girardi launched into an anti-media tirade this weekend after Jack Curry and other reporters dared to ask him about his exchange when the righty was pulled from Saturday night’s game. As much as both have publicly defended Burnett, it seems like they are starting to get tired of it.

Girardi, who is fiercely loyal and protective of his players, may have just been acknowledging the obvious when he said Burnett has to pitch better to stay in the rotation. But the fact that he even said that publicly is telling. What is even more interesting is Cashman’s about-face. It seems like it was just yesterday when he was begging the media to put the blame for Burnett’s failure to pitch up to his contract on the general manager’s shoulders. Now Cashman is saying that Burnett’s contract won’t keep him in the rotation and that the righty has not pitched like a #2 starter.

What caused the sudden reversal for Girardi and Cashman? Perhaps they are finally sick of Burnett’s act, particularly the way he sulked off the mound on Saturday, with even Girardi questioning the pitcher about whether that rant was directed at him. Even if I believed Burnett truly was mad about the last pitch and not as his manager, which I don’t, I have a hard time understanding why he thinks he has any right to be upset about that particular pitch as opposed to the 60 pitches before when he had trouble getting anyone out.

Aside from being mad about Burnett’s sulking, I think Girardi and Cashman now realize that they have no choice but to remove Burnett from the rotation. You can’t send Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova to the bullpen with the way they’ve been pitching. You could conceivably sit Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia (once he comes off the disabled list) for a few starts in late August and September just to save their arms for the postseason. But with the race against the Boston Red Sox so tight, the Yankees have to send out the pitchers they have the best chance to win with and Burnett clearly doesn’t fall into that category.

I would be really nervous right now if I was AJ Burnett. Girardi and Cashman were the only ones standing between him and banishment to the bullpen. If they are now refusing to stick up for him, it’s only a matter of time before Burnett finds himself relegated to mop-up games and a seat on the bench as he watches his Yankees teammates play in October.

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