For A.J. Burnett, More of the Same, With Differences - NBC New York

For A.J. Burnett, More of the Same, With Differences

April success is nothing new, but the way he's succeeding is.



    Meet Four Inspiring Kids Tackling Cancer
    Getty Images
    April showers can't take away Burnett's April powers.

    It was a pretty miserable night to be at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.

    It was chilly, foggy and rainy enough that the Yankees actually offered fans at the game free tickets to another game this season as a thank you for coming out.

    That tells you the weather was miserable and it also tells you that the Yankees, who aren't in the business of rejecting revenue, don't think they are going to have much more success selling tickets once the weather gets better.

    Making matters worse, it took about a decade to play the first two innings as both Chris Tillman and A.J. Burnett struggled to get outs while throwing tons of pitches. Tillman was gone before the end of the second, but Burnett was about to flip the script.

    After throwing 53 pitches in the first two frames, Burnett wound up lasting into the seventh while throwing just 59 pitches over the rest of his outing. He ran into trouble in the seventh, allowing four runs that ruined his box score but not his start or the Yankee win. 

    The start was the third straight solid one for a pitcher who wasn't capable of that across the second half of last season. It wasn't perfect, obviously, but Burnett doesn't need to be perfect to restore faith in his ability to help the team.

    There is plenty of evidence that he's back to being able to do that. He's striking hitters out at a healthy rate, generating lots of swinging strikes and mostly avoiding the meltdown innings than sank him so consistently last season.

    Ah, but he was doing that last April as well and we all know how that wound up turning out. So why should we believe things are really different this time around?

    His use of the changeup is the biggest reason. Last year Burnett threw the pitch rarely and without much effect, but it has been a regular part of his repetoire this time with great effect.

    Burnett has long been a two-pitch pitcher and when either one of them is off he has very little chance to compete. Burnett's change isn't on the level of his fastball or curve, but it does make it more difficult for hitters to settle in during their trips to the plate against him.

    That will change as more scouting is done on what Burnett is doing, which means he'll have to keep making adjustments to stay ahead of the pack. He's taken the first step, though, and that should make each ensuing one that much easier to pull off.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.