Sunday, February 16, 2014
Phils' payroll close to threshold
By Jayson Stark
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A few more fascinating tidbits from A.J. Burnett's first meeting with the media after his deal with the Phillies was officially announced Sunday:
• Burnett said the Pirates' decision to pass over him, and start rookie Gerrit Cole instead, in Game 5 of last October's division series didn't affect his thinking in not returning to Pittsburgh "one bit."
"I'm a team guy," he said. "I'll be honest with you. Nobody wants to get the ball taken from him. ... But that had no influence. I would have liked to have known ahead of time, as opposed to [not learning he wasn't pitching until after Game 4]. But ... if it's going to put our team in a better spot, then I'm all for it."
• Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Cole Hamels' health issues this spring had "nothing" to do with the signing of Burnett, because "frankly, I'm not all that concerned about Cole." Hamels admitted last week he had to stop throwing in December because of tendinitis in his shoulder and wouldn't be ready to start on Opening Day.
• The addition of Burnett could push the Phillies' payroll close to the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, depending on the final composition of their roster. But Amaro said ownership approved the signing of Burnett anyway because "more than anything else, we had a unique opportunity."
"If you were to tell us [at the beginning of the offseason] what pitcher was going to be available, or what pitchers were going to be available, and he was part of the original mix," Amaro said, "he probably would have been at the top of the ticket."
• Asked if the size of that payroll would prevent the Phillies from adding more players in midseason if they're in contention, Amaro replied: "We'll see. This increases our payroll. No doubt about it. It takes it to a level it's never been. But the season will dictate. The players will let us know what we should do."
• As he did in Pittsburgh, Burnett will wear No. 34 with the Phillies. It's a number last worn by Roy Halladay, who, as Burnett has said many times, played a major role in transforming his attitude and career when the two of them played together in Toronto.
"Roy Halladay," he said Sunday, "made me realize what I'm here for."
• Finally, an A.J. statistical tidbit: Only one qualifying Phillies starter in history ever had a strikeout ratio as high as Burnett's strikeout rate in Pittsburgh last year (9.8 per nine innings) -- Curt Schilling. Schilling topped that rate twice -- in 1997 (11.3) and 1998 (10.0).