- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Not strong enough.
When it comes to A.J. Burnett, Brian Cashman encourages everyone to "smoke the objective pipe."
In the eyes of many, Burnett (8-9, 4.60 ERA) hasn't pitched well enough to keep his spot in the rotation. But Cashman sees things a bit differently. He thinks everything has been overblown.
"I encourage everybody to just break it down," Cashman said. "Break it down. Compare him to other people. Look at his start-by-start. Look at his run support. If you smoke the objective pipe, I think the coverage on him would be a little smoother, more accurate."
The Yankees, who have used a six-man rotation for nearly two weeks, will go back to a five-man rotation next week.
"We've got six guys who are capable of pitching in a rotation in a pennant race," Cashman said. "That's a good thing. Someone is going to have to go, and we're going to make that decision. But this stuff about [whether] A.J. Burnett is worthy of being ripped from the rotation is a bunch of crap."
Cashman continued: "I have more objectivity than most of us, let's put it that way. I'm just used to the [expletive] emotional response to stuff that doesn't really reflect reality. A.J. Burnett is not pitching anywhere close to as bad as people say."
Still, Cashman wouldn't say whether Burnett was going to stay in the rotation after this week.
We didn't "smoke the objective pipe," but here's what we came up with:
• Of all pitchers who qualify for the ERA title, Burnett ranks 91st (4.60).
• As far as run support is concerned, Burnett ranks 27th in the majors (6.84).
• He hasn't won since June 29 and is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA during that stretch (seven starts).
• He hasn't won an August start in his two-plus seasons with the Yankees (0-8, 7.18).
Upon being approached by reporters after Cashman's epic rant, Burnett was appreciative that the Yankees' GM stood up for him.
"That's awesome," Burnett said. "One thing about Cash is he's always had my back. ... This year he's been the same guy, expressing how much I mean to this club and how much he enjoys me being here."
Burnett is in the third year of an $82.5 million contract with the Yankees. His standout moment was Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, in which he pitched seven innings, allowing one run and four hits.
"I haven't exactly put it together and gotten everything to click," Burnett said of 2011. "I think a lot of people are still looking at last year, and everybody says, 'Well, look what I did in Game 2.' Everybody expects me to pitch like I did in Game 2, and so do I. But I go out there and give it everything I got. I can't control people's opinions. But they want me to be better. I have a big contract. I make a lot of money, so it's only fair.
"The bottom line is I'm 8-9, and I'll tell you before everybody else that I'm better than that. In that way, I'll give [my critics] some leeway. I mean, I haven't done the job. I've kept my team in games, yes. There are some games I should've won, yes. But have I pitched as well as A.J. Burnett should? No, I don't think I have.
"I've gotten my butt whooped two or three times this year, but every other game I've kept my team in and things haven't worked out, I believe."
Burnett, who will make $16.5 million in 2011, has two years and $33 million remaining on his five-year contract after this season.
"I come here every day with a good attitude," Burnett said. "My team believes in me, these guys believe in me and I'm not the kinda guy that's gonna cop out. I'm not gonna come here [and say], 'I can't wait to leave New York,' or, 'I can’t wait for that.'
"No, I'm gonna say I can't wait for my next start, because I know sooner or later that it's gonna click."
Burnett wanted no part of any questions about a potential move to the bullpen.
"We'll worry about that when it happens," said Burnett, who expects to start Monday when the Yankees begin a seven-game road trip in Kansas City.
13hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
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