Will AJ Burnett’s Self-Inflicted Injury Hurt Yanks?

Bronx, NY —The emotional and poignant Old-Timers’ Day ceremony with additional tributes to the recently deceased Yankees owner George Stenbrenner and former public address announcer Bob Sheppard moved all in the sold-out ballpark on Saturday.

The most publicized event of the regularly scheduled contest between the two contenders for the American League East crown in 2010 was a downbeat and depressing occurrence. Yankee starter AJ Burnett in a moment of frustration, after the second inning, punched the door of the clubhouse and suffered lacerations from the plexiglass covering the day’s lineup.

With two outs in the first, Burnett gave up a single to Evan Longoria, who was plated by a double from Carlos Pena. First inning problems have been common to Burnett this season. He has allowed the opposition to score in the first in 14 of his 19 starts.

The second inning was not an improvement. With two outs, Jason Bartlett was hit by a pitch. The following batter, Reid Brignac, took a 1-0 pitch into the left field stands to bring the Rays lead to 3-0. After that inning, Burnett gave in to frustration.

With the Yankees only trailing by a 3-2 score, Burnett came out for the third. He hit 6he first batter, Longoria, with a pitch. With Pena at the plate, Burnett uncorked a wild pitch. Pena singled to center, and Burnett was removed from the game aft6er only throwing 43 pitches.

To add insult to the injury, Burnett, at first, told trainer Steve Donahue that he cut his hand after falling on stairs. The pitcher explained, “The plexiglass on the door came off, but didn’t shatter.” He then admitted to the truth of what happened and was in manager Joe Girardi’s office after the contest ended with a 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Girardi’s entire delayed post-game press conference was devoted to the incident involving Burnett. Girardi was peppered with queries regarding his feelings toward Bruentt’s act. He put a positive spin on the negative act, “AJ got frustrated and hit his hand on something and cut his hand at the end of the second inning. We’re fortunate the cut isn’t in his fingers. He should make his next start. He’s able to turn things around and turn the page. He has shown me he can pitch in big games [game two in the 2009 ALDS, game two in the 2009 ALCS, and game two in the 2009 World Series].”

Obviously, the manager can not condone the foolish action, which would encourage its repeat, “It’s not something AJ is proud of. It’s not something I want our guys to do. My job is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Burnett is 33 years old and in his 11th major league season. Although, anyone can lose his/her temper, the timing was very inauspicious. The Yanks, now two games in front of the Rays, have 73 more games to play in 2010. If Burnett misses time or continues to pitch inconsistently, it can have a disastrous affect upon the team’s chances to repeat as world champs. Burnett has lost six of his last seven decisions. His record is 7-8 and his ERA has inflated to 4.99. The question can now be asked more seriously as to whether or not the organization made a mistake by not obtaining Cliff Lee last week.

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