Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Updated: February 16, 9:20 AM ET
A.J. Burnett doesn't eye big fixes
By Andrew Marchand
TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees starter A.J. Burnett is coming off a disappointing season in many ways, but throwing his first bullpen session of the spring Tuesday, he said he doesn't need to make drastic changes.
"I don't need to be fixed," Burnett said in the clubhouse Tuesday morning.
The Yankees' goal this offseason was to make Burnett their fourth or fifth starter. Instead, Cliff Lee turned down the Yankees' tens of millions and signed with Philadelphia as a free agent, while Andy Pettitte announced his retirement earlier this month.
This has left the Yankees' rotation filled with questions after CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. Burnett may be the biggest question mark of all -- and the most important player on the team.
"I wasn't really a factor and I'm here to be a factor," said the 34-year-old Burnett, who is in the third season of his five-year, $82.5 million contract.
He said last year when he tumbled to a 10-15 record with a 5.26 ERA, his mind got "rattled" -- no more so than during the dreadful month of June, when he went 0-5 with an 11.35 ERA. Burnett felt he listened to too many opinions instead of relying on his experience.
"When you have a month like that you will take advice," Burnett said.
The dreadful month coincided with pitching coach Dave Eiland taking a leave of absence for personal reasons.
"If I had it all to do over again, I would have been left alone," Burnett said.
Eiland was let go by general manager Brian Cashman after the season and replaced by Larry Rothschild, who will be trying to create more balance with Burnett's funky leg kick.
Burnett believes he and Rothschild will work well together because they are both "old school."
"My delivery is different than a lot of people," Burnett said. "I'm going to be side to side. It is a matter of stopping it at the right time."
Burnett said he will listen to Rothschild, but his main adjustment will be with his mental approach to pitching.
"I realized how important I was for the first time in my whole career," Burnett said.
Burnett didn't start in the AL Division Series and got one start in the AL Championship Series. After the Yankees lost to the Rangers in the ALCS, it dawned on Burnett just how badly 2010 ended.
"The flight home, just realizing, I didn't do anything," Burnett said. "I just pitched one game in the postseason. What is going on here? That is not what I came here to do, you know. Maybe we can change things around. I came here to win. I came here to pitch. I came here to be behind big man [Sabathia.] I wasn't last year.
"I don't think I need to be fixed. I think, I wish I didn't have to say this, I just had a really bad year last year. I've had stretches before. In '08, it was my best year and I started off horrible. And there wasn't no fixing."
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.