A full recovery for A.J. Burnett might be contingent on how the changeup evolves over the course of six months.
If the pitch resembles anything like it did during six innings of Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Twins, then a rebound year might in store.
“I think he’s taking the success he had in spring training and carrying it over to the season,” catcher Russell Martin said. “It was a pitch we talked about and he said it was it was his third-best pitch, but I think it’s going to be a major pitch for him.
Burnett picked up his second win after allowing two earned runs on five hits and striking out six. He improved to 7-0 in April in pinstripes.
“That’s the importance of having another pitch,” manager Joe Girardi added. “You can’t sit on one pitch and have a 50 percent of being right, knowing that you’re going to get one during the course of the at-bat. I thought he changed up and now you get a pitch going away from you as opposed to coming in against left-handed hitters.”
Burnett’s composure also made a difference. That was tested in the fourth when he allowed three doubles and again in the fifth, after the Yankees took a 4-2 lead.
“I was just kind of floating it in there and the hook wasn’t sharp,” Burnett said. “I think we just threw a couple of changeups and backed away, but it is all confidence — confidence that I will get these three outs and get back to the dugout as fast as I can and it worked out.”
It hasn’t worked out for their next opponent, Boston. The Red Sox fell to 0-6 after losing in Cleveland and a Yankee sweep could put them at 0-9.
“No team wants to start off slow,” Girardi said. “They know they’re a very good club and we know that as well. They have veterans and I’m sure there’s no panic in that room but everyone wants to get that first win under their belts.”
Three Things to look for this weekend at Boston:
1. Perhaps a little more small ball – The Yankees set a club record by hitting 13 home runs in their first five games. Yesterday, they scored two runs on productive outs (Nick Swisher sacrifice fly and Martin groundout) and since the throwing arms of Red Sox catchers are slightly below average, look for the Yankees to display aggressiveness on the bases, especially if Brett Gardner is on base.
2. Welcome to the rivalry – Every year the rivalry is introduced to the new players and some perform well (Curtis Granderson) and some don’t (Burnett) in their first tastes of the rivalry. This year, Russell Martin, who knows about this from Giants-Dodgers, will make his debut. So will Rafael Soriano, who looked sharp throwing 10 pitches in the eighth.
3. Will Phil locate? As much as everyone is talking about Phil Hughes’ dip in velocity, the bottom line was poor location during his four-inning start Sunday against Detroit. Hughes’ poor location was on display when Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs that still are traveling. Hughes has allowed 10 earned runs in 15 career innings at Fenway.