Burnett, Posada try to get on same page
A former catcher, Girardi defends disagreements as normal
NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada's greatest value to the Yankees has historically been his switch-hitting power bat, which provides considerably more offense than expected from the catching position.
Though the 38-year-old's game calling has not necessarily been considered his top strength, Yankees manager Joe Girardi launched into a defense on Sunday of Posada, who again disagreed with A.J. Burnett recently on pitch selection.
"This is a guy who's played in [five] World Series -- he's doing something right," said Girardi, a former big league backstop himself. "The true onus falls on the pitcher, what they're going to throw.
"I would never want a pitcher to throw what I want if he didn't believe in it, ever. Conviction, for me, is extremely important for pitchers. We're suggestion boxes."
Burnett gave new life to one of the Yankees' most recent hot-button issues on Saturday, when he threw a fastball to David Ortiz that he admitted he did not completely want to throw.
Ortiz belted it over the Green Monster in Boston's 14-1 drubbing of the Yankees, and FOX television cameras captured Burnett flipping his arms wide as he walked behind the mound, yelling, "Why? Why would you throw that pitch?"
After the game, both Burnett and Posada acknowledged that there had been instances of shaking off signs during the game. Posada said that the two were never able to get on the same page and that "executing and location really killed us." Burnett felt his curveball was a better pitch and that he should have thrown it more.
"I'm making suggestions," Posada said. "He's going to throw a pitch, whatever he wants. If I call it and it's not what he wants, he's going to shake it."
Girardi said that Saturday was "a frustrating day for all of us involved," but he bristled before Sunday's series finale when asked repeated questions on the topic.
"I think people are trying to make this a bigger story than it needs to be," Girardi said. "Pitching comes down to a couple of things, to me. It comes down to execution of the pitch, which is the most important thing -- more important than pitch selection or anything else.
"At times, if a pitcher doesn't have the stuff that you expect them to have that day, it becomes a little more difficult. We talk about the importance of A.J. and the location of his fastball. When he throws his fastball where he wants, he's really, really good."
Girardi said he does not have a lot of concerns about matching Burnett with Posada, despite the fact that the battery has become ripe for talk-radio fodder, beginning with Burnett's three wild pitches against the Blue Jays on Aug. 12 at Yankee Stadium. Girardi points to Burnett's Aug. 7 start against the Red Sox as a better example.
"People seem to forget that Jorge was behind the plate when A.J. threw eight scoreless innings matched up with [Josh] Beckett at our ballpark," Girardi said.
Girardi overstated the case by one out, but Burnett's 7 2/3 innings of one-hit ball led to a 2-0 Yankees victory in 15 innings. Indeed, Burnett was 8-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 11 starts before Saturday, dating back to a June 20 start against the Marlins in Miami. Posada caught 10 of those games.
"There's no pattern there -- guys miss signs all the time," Burnett said. "I crossed him up a couple of times. That's not him. That happens every day, guys cross guys up. I've had a great run with Jorgie. There's no things to point at but me."
Posada did not start in the Yankees' 8-4 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday, as Jose Molina received CC Sabathia for the fourth time in his past five starts.
That, also, was not something to read into, Girardi said. He plans to keep offering Posada a day off every three or four days, and the manager intends not to fall into a sequence of playing favorites for his pitchers.
"I have not given anyone a personal catcher here," Girardi said. "I'll continue to rotate. Physically, I'll talk to Jorgie, and it's usually two out of three or three out of four. He's not 25 anymore. As I've told players, we need to keep you healthy for the long haul, not just for a week."
Clashes between catchers and pitchers are nothing new, though the magnifying glass of Yankees-Red Sox certainly illuminates it. While Posada may call for a certain pitch, the decision is always on the pitcher to make the final decision.
"A catcher's responsibility is to know the hitter -- take the stuff the pitcher has and attack the hitter," Girardi said. "That is his responsibility. There are no two people you can put out there and have the exact same game plan. At some point, there is going to be a difference of opinion of what the right pitch is."
Girardi would know better than most. He produced an example from his playing days, recalling that he and then-Cubs pitcher Jason Bere bumped on the mound regarding a pitch to Ron Gant on April 25, 2001, at Coors Field.
Girardi put down the sign for a fastball, believing Bere could get it by the Rockies slugger. Bere shook it off.
"Joe, you don't know what the fastball feels like coming out of my hand," Bere told Girardi. "I want to throw a changeup."
With Girardi ready for the changeup, Bere struck out Gant and made it through six innings with a lead before the Rockies roughed up the Cubs' bullpen. The no-decision might have been disappointing for Bere, but in Girardi's view, a loss incurred on a pitch Bere didn't want to throw would have stung more.
Girardi said he addressed the Yankees' pitching staff as recently as April on the importance of throwing with conviction, and he would have no issue with making that same speech again as a reminder to the hurlers as the team tries to head into the postseason.
"The responsibility is always on the pitcher," Girardi said. "Our job as catchers is to get the most out of them. Sometimes, you have to get them to come around to their thinking and show them, 'You know what? You really do have a good fastball and you have to trust it.' But sometimes it just doesn't happen."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.