MLB playoffs: Yankees’ Burnett: Give me either catcher; says Girardi picked catcher
By Steve Popper
The Record (Hackensack N.J.)
NEW YORK — A.J. Burnett just wanted to get to Friday’s start, his first in the postseason, and feel the excitement he waited for his whole career. But he instead found himself trying to explain away the controversy that will accompany him to the mound against the Twins.
Burnett denied that he had anything to do with the decision by Yankees manager Joe Girardi to pair him with Jose Molina as his personal catcher — a decision that will force one of the team’s veteran leaders, Jorge Posada, to the bench for Game 2 of the American League Division Series, as well as a potential decisive Game 5.
Molina has become the designated catcher for Burnett, catching the final six starts of the season for the first-year Yankee pitcher. While Burnett may not have asked, the openly discussed dispute that Posada and Burnett had Aug. 22 in Boston seemed to set a tone for Girardi. Burnett imploded for nine runs in five innings, including a home run to David Ortiz when Posada called for a fastball and Burnett wanted to throw a curve.
“It’s making me out to be the bad guy again,” said Burnett, stopping to talk on his way off the field from the pregame workout Wednesday. “It comes down to Boston when I said, ’Why, why, why?’ But over my career, I’ve done that a handful of times.
“But if you ask people who I played with, I don’t show guys up. I’m upset with me for so many times in the past; I’ve struck him out with a curveball in that situation. And it’s just ever since things got blown out we have a great relationship.
“Inside the clubhouse, on the field and like you mentioned, I’ve even gone to Joe in the past and said, ’Hey, give me either one.’ It’s his decision. And obviously Jorge’s upset. He’s a big part of this team. He’s a leader on and off the field, and hopefully his mind will be right to get in there and get a pinch hit when the time comes.”
Posada seemed upset as he discussed the decision Tuesday chalking it up to a manager’s decision and quietly adding, “You know what, I just hope we win that game. That’s all. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
If Burnett pitches well enough, it could be a moot point, but the Yankees lose one of their better bats and insert the almost-useless Molina into the offense a .217 hitter with no speed. While Burnett performed well down the stretch throwing to Molina, he has had his struggles with him and has performed well with Posada, a point he stressed.
“I’ve thrown to both guys. I’ve thrown good to both,” he said. “My good games, I’m right. And my bad games, it’s not the catcher. It’s me. People don’t know me here, so they don’t know how to take me, but when I’m good, it doesn’t matter which one’s behind the plate.”
Burnett will have to sit down in the interview room on Thursday at Yankee Stadium and the questions will come again. And then he can do what he wants to just pitch the first postseason game of his career. Girardi jumped him ahead of Andy Pettitte, giving him Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 5. Burnett didn’t seem concerned with getting the chance at Yankee Stadium or at the Metrodome.
“As long as I get to do it,” he said. “I’ve waited a long time for this and we talked about coming here for a reason and that’s the reason — this game. It’s October and we’re in it, and I’ve got a chance to pitch in the postseason for the first time. So like I said, it wouldn’t have mattered, (Game) 2 or 3 or home or on the road.”