A.J. Burnett's Really Happy Dave Eiland Came Back

Burnett turns in second straight strong start after Eiland's return

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    You thought it was ridiculous that A.J. Burnett's string of awful starts was being blamed on the absence of pitching coach Dave Eiland. It's okay to admit it, we all thought it sounded like a convenient excuse for a guy who always seems to find a convenient excuse when he pitches like garbage.

    It's hard to argue with that read on the situation after the last two starts, though. Eiland returned to the team in late June, just after Burnett's fifth straight disaster on the mound and just in time for last weekend's start against the Blue Jays. The results are in and it is safe to say that Burnett is no man without his Eiland.

    Burnett pitched very well against Toronto before the bullpen blew the game and he was dynamite again in Oakland on Wednesday. He allowed two runs over seven innings and rarely looked like he was in any serious danger of giving up one of those disastrous five-run innings when it looks like all his talent has decided to take the night off to wash its hair and catch up on old episodes of one of the "Real Housewives" programs. 

    The way he pitched was different too. Burnett threw the changeup nine times on Wednesday, the most we can remember seeing it since he joined the Yankees. He threw it a couple of times against the Jays, but his increased use of it speaks to a renewed confidence in himself and a push from someone else to diversify his game.

    With a killer fastball and curveball already, adding a third pitch could allow Burnett to finally crack through the ceiling that always seems to hover over him as well as mitigate any effects losing a bit of velocity might have been having on him earlier this season. He's always had the physical ability to be great. Adding a better mental approach would make him nearly unbeatable.

    Alas, we won't assume that's coming anytime soon. As much as it must help to have Eiland in the dugout, Burnett is a veteran of 12 big league seasons and should be able to deal with the absence of a guy he's worked with for 18 months. Seeing good A.J. always makes you dream big things are coming down the pike but you can't erase bad A.J. any more than you can erase your heart and keep on living.

    So savor the good and laugh at the next silly excuse for a Burnett rough patch because anything else will make you go crazy.

    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.