A Change Comes for A.J. Burnett

An encouraging start from the struggling Burnett

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Yankees were looking for a change in performance from A.J. Burnett on Wednesday night and he gave them one. 

    Several, actually. Burnett won his first game since July 28th with the help of a changeup that he's rarely thrown in the past playing a major role. He got several of his eight strikeouts on the pitch, clearly using it as a surprise for hitters conditioned to see nothing but fastballs and curveballs from Burnett because Burnett has stubbornly stuck to those two pitches no matter how poorly he's been throwing them. 

    Obviously, the desperation felt by everyone watching Burnett pitch in August was shared by the man himself. It was no small help that his curveball was sharper than its been in some time because it allowed Burnett to get ahead of hitters, but having that changeup and the uncertainty it brought with it was clearly the difference.

    No one should be writing any heroic odes to the way Burnett saved his season just yet. He still gave up three runs in six innings and appeared to be on the edge of disaster at a couple of different moments before Joe Girardi pulled him after 91 pitches. We've seen plenty of better starts than this from Burnett only to see him crash and burn his next time out of the gate. No one should make any proclamations just yet, then.

    Still, it was encouraging to see Burnett trying something new. He's always been a pitcher who felt all he had to do was reach down and throw harder to get out of trouble. That wasn't working and it's got a long history of not working well enough to take advantage of his considerable gifts. Understanding that things couldn't get any worse by trying a new approach isn't always the easiest thing to do, so he's earned a pat on the back for taking that first step.

    If he takes another one in his next start, and he's certainly earned another go, then we'll probably look back at Wednesday as one of the bigger nights of the Yankee season.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.