Burnett, Posada let bygones be bygones
Tandem issues not on thoughts of batterymates this spring
TAMPA, Fla. -- When the last of A.J. Burnett's 33 pitches on Monday had landed safely in Jorge Posada's glove, the batterymates met halfway between the mound and the plate and shook hands -- a nice finish to the morning's work.
That Spring Training greeting was a welcome turn of events from the low point of their relationship, a dismal Aug. 22 start that left Burnett shouting at himself on the mound, trying to overpower the Fenway Park crowd noise as David Ortiz trotted around the bases.
"I never questioned Jorgie," Burnett said on Monday. "Never would, never did. I questioned myself. Everybody thought I questioned Jorgie. He's caught in this league for a long time, and I can do nothing but learn from him. I'm looking forward to it, starting today."
Burnett and Posada never officially broke up as a tandem last year -- at least, not in the eyes of manager Joe Girardi -- but they certainly shuffled their relationship when Burnett threw almost exclusively to Jose Molina late in the season, sidestepping issues with pitch selection.
This, Burnett believes, will be a fresh start.
"I was looking forward to it," Burnett said. "A lot of stuff went on, unfortunately, last year. We've talked a handful of times already, and I'm real excited to put that behind us and move on."
Molina caught all five of Burnett's postseason starts, including two decisions in the World Series, and there was a noticeable statistical difference with Posada not behind the plate.
In 16 regular-season starts with Posada, Burnett watched hitters bat .270 with a .421 slugging percentage; with Molina calling pitches, opponents hit .221 with a .353 slugging percentage.
Despite those numbers, Girardi believes that Burnett and Posada can succeed with a fresh slate in 2010.
"They had some good games together last year," Girardi said. "I think sometimes people just want to point at the negative games. Sometimes relationships, when you're extremely competitive, can take on a different nature.
"I think it's being in tune with how a pitcher wants to attack and what's working. Sometimes as a catcher, you see something a pitcher doesn't necessarily see. It's being able to communicate and then understanding what you're talking about. It's learning how to understand each other."
Burnett said that he and Posada had some difficulty communicating early in the season. One difference could have been that Molina -- now with the Blue Jays -- caught most of Burnett's bullpen sessions during the season, allowing them time to bond, a luxury that Posada was not afforded as the starting catcher.
"The more we get to work with each other, the more we're going to learn from each other," Burnett said. "I hope he catches me every start. We were talking about the good games we threw together last year.
"I'm really excited. I hope he catches every bullpen [session] and every game. Me coming in here in my first year and feeling like I caused that controversy, I just want to deal with that."
Burnett was 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 33 starts for the Yankees last season, and said that he believed he was less efficient than in 2008, when he parlayed an 18-win season with the Blue Jays into a five-year, $82.5 million contract.
Burnett said that his main goals for 2010 will be to work on his control -- he led the American League with 97 free passes and tied Seattle's Felix Hernandez for the Major League lead with 17 wild pitches -- and to go deeper into games, pointing to CC Sabathia's pitch counts as a model to follow.
"I'd like to be a little more efficient like the big man is," Burnett said. "He's 12 or 15 [pitches] an inning. That helps. You just don't want to give away free bags -- let them earn their bases.
"It's a few little things mechanically that were a little off. I guess it's different coming over the first year. You're used to being around certain pitchers, certain pitching coaches. Last year was a learning process for everybody."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.