A.J. comes out pitching, not punching

NEW YORK -- The clubhouse door was safe Friday night. So were A.J. Burnett's palms.

The Yankees right-hander returned to the mound six days after suffering a meltdown in a start against the Tampa Bay Rays and was -- for the most part -- the picture of tranquility.

Burnett allowed four hits and struck out three in five frustration-free innings in the Yankees' 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals. Burnett's start was shortened due to an 85-minute rain delay, even though he begged and pleaded with Joe Girardi to let him come out for the sixth inning.

It wasn't the way he wanted his night to end, but after the turmoil associated with his last start, Burnett was content with the result against the Royals.

"It was a good step," said Burnett, who won for the second time in his past nine starts. "I stayed within myself probably all but four pitches and I didn't overthrow anything."

Girardi said before the game that he'd be monitoring Burnett's reactions on the mound -- likely looking for any emotional outbursts. But the manager was pleased with what he saw from Burnett.

"I thought his body language was great tonight," Girardi said. "And he had some situations."

Burnett said he didn't let little things bother him Friday night, remaining focused and calm. Of course, it helped that the Yankees staked Burnett to a 4-0 lead after the first inning.

"I was just focused more on what I had to do, on my job," Burnett said after he earned the win to improve to 8-8. "When I do that, I'm good. When I let little things bother me, I'm not."

Everyone came to the park to see fireworks from Alex Rodriguez, who was one home run from 600. But they were more than happy to see none from the starting pitcher, whose calm demeanor was a far cry from his last start.

Burnett cut both of his palms in between the second and third innings of his start last Saturday against Tampa after slamming both hands against a clubhouse door.

Reid Brignac's two-out, two-run homer apparently set Burnett off on his clubhouse tantrum. When asked about his emotions after Friday night's win, Burnett was quick to note that he remained composed after giving up a two-out single to Scott Podsednik in the third.

"I gave up a two-out hit tonight like I did in other starts, but I wasn't letting nothing affect me," said Burnett, who did not wear a bandage on his pitching hand.

Burnett allowed two hits but stayed out of trouble in the opening two frames, while struggling with an ineffective curveball. He battled through a tough spot in the third inning after giving up the two-out single to Podsednik. The Royals left fielder stole second and Burnett walked Jason Kendall on five pitches. But Burnett buckled down against Butler, striking him out on a 1-2 curveball. His night was over after a 1-2-3 fifth when rain forced a delay. It wasn't the way he wanted it to end, but after the theatrics associated with his last start, Burnett will take it.

"It's going to take me more than one to get on a good roll, but this was a good start in the right direction," he said.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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