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Don’t Call It a Comeback: Burnett & Yanks Top Tigers

Perhaps “comeback” is a bit of a misnomer, since A.J. Burnett technically didn’t go anywhere. But to Yankee fans during the 2010 season, he may as well have. After posting a dismal 10-15 record with a 5.26 ERA last year, he has raised many questions about his reliability as the number two starter for 2011.

By: Elizabeth DiPietro

Perhaps “comeback” is a bit of a misnomer, since A.J. Burnett technically didn’t go anywhere.  But to Yankee fans during the 2010 season, he may as well have.  After posting a dismal 10-15 record with a 5.26 ERA last year, he has raised many questions about his reliability as the number two starter for 2011.

The departure of Andy Pettitte in the offseason gave Burnett all the more reason to prove he’s worth his $82.5 million contract.

On Saturday afternoon against the Tigers, Burnett was able to pitch adequately enough to earn his first win of the season and the Yankees’ second overall, hurling five innings and giving up three runs.  His outing helped New York top Detroit 10-6.

Burnett also struck out six batters.  Usually notorious for his lack of control, Burnett’s most encouraging statistic was his lone walk.  (While pitching for the Marlins in 2001, he pitched a no-hitter—complete with nine walks.)  In thirteen innings of spring training, Burnett didn’t walk a single batter.  His outing was an optimistic start to the new season, especially considering he has been experiencing flu-like symptoms for the last few days.

Another Yankee who appears to be disproving the naysayers is Mark Teixeira.  Historically, he has been criticized for getting off to a slow start; he batted a paltry .136 in April of 2010.  On Saturday he hit his second home run in as many days.  Both round-trippers were three-run shots.

Burnett’s encouraging performance notwithstanding, the true star of Saturday’s game was the offense.  There were two home runs besides Teixeira’s, one from Alex Rodriguez and one from newcomer Russell Martin, who seems to have settled into his job as everyday catcher quite well.  Derek Jeter inched two hits closer to his milestone of 3,000, which he is expected to reach later this season.

The Tigers did put up a fight offensively.  Former Yankee prospect Austin Jackson whacked a home run off Burnett, and veteran slugger Victor Martinez hit one off Luis Ayala, who relieved Burnett in the sixth.  Closer Mariano Rivera entered in relief of Boone Logan in the ninth and earned his second save.

After the game, Burnett’s teammates had positive words for his performance.  “A.J. threw the ball great today,” Rodriguez said, via the New York Daily News.  “[He’s] got electric stuff.”

The Yankees earned their second win of the season even though it took a bit more cut-and-pasting from the pitching staff than Thursday’s season opener.  In that game, CC Sabathia threw a solid six innings, followed by Joba Chamberlain for the seventh, Rafael Soriano for the eighth, and Rivera closing out the ninth.  This is the formula manager Joe Girardi hopes to utilize in order to achieve success.

However, it’s good to know that when things don’t go according to plan, the Yankees can still eke out a win.  They finish up against Detroit on Sunday, and begin a series at home against the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.

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