In six days, A.J. Burnett will likely pitch in front of nervous Yankees fans.

The erratic starter will take the mound in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series in front of a crowd that will walk through the gates of Yankee Stadium with a sense of dread and trepidation.

“Our fans need to prepare for a four-man rotation,” general manager Brian Cashman said yesterday. “And we’ll be confident when he takes the mound if that’s the case.”

Burnett, of course, was left out of the AL Division Series rotation after posting the worst regular season of a 12-year career. In a seven-game series, the Yankees have just about no choice but to hand the ball of to the guy with great stuff but inconsistent performances.

“I’ve been looking forward to it, hoping they’d give me a shot and they did,” Burnett said. “Now it’s my job to get ready… I’m over the season. Obviously it’s important to get right for the postseason, but it’s from here on out [that matters].”

It’s anyone’s guess which Burnett shows up. He was as good as he was bad last October.

The good showed in three Game 2s of the ALDS, ALCS and World Series. The bad emerged in a pair of Game 5s when the Yankees had a chance to close out the ALCS and World Series.

As for the present, Burnett is trying to forget most of it with one exception. He recently viewed the tape of his first World Series start and will watch it again between now and next Tuesday to study a dominating curveball.


The alternatives

Calling on CC for three games?
The Yankees have to start A.J. Burnett at least once in the AL Championship Series that begins on Friday.

The Bombers will be playing against a potent lineup and asking Game 1 starter CC Sabathia to start Games 4 and 7 just isn’t reasonable. Sabathia has throw 237 innings, and you can’t burn him out in the ALCS.

Moseley or Vazquez?
Dustin Moseley (4-4, 4.96 ERA) and Javier Vazquez (10-10, 5.32) are your other options to start Game 4.

Seeing their stats makes you feel a lot better about Burnett now, huh? METRO