Burnett utilizes changeup in spring outing
Right-hander wants to improve pitch, enhance his arsenal
TAMPA, Fla. -- A.J. Burnett isn't exactly reinventing the wheel by telling people he wants to throw a changeup more, nor is he necessarily even changing anything about the arsenal that produced 13 wins last season.
At this point in the spring, it's all about refining and tweaking, and Burnett sees an opportunity to improve an area of his game that is lacking. So when the right-hander entered a situation where he'd usually throw his curveball on Saturday, he went to the changeup instead.
"When I'm throwing it right, I get [split-finger action], straight down," Burnett said. "I don't have to worry about velocity when I've got that kind of action to it. It's about confidence and not being stubborn, and pitching, not throwing."
The luxury is that spring results don't matter, so Burnett thought nothing of the two runs and five hits he allowed in 1 2/3 innings, chased because he ran up against a pitch count when Aaron Hill lined his 36th offering for a second-inning single.
Neither did Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who thought that he saw plenty of "positive things" from Burnett's brief afternoon against his former team from 2006-08, coming in a 9-1 loss that ended long after Burnett had departed George M. Steinbrenner Field.
"A.J. was just working on arm strength today," Girardi said. "He threw only fastballs and changeups. He threw some good changeups today. He did what he wanted to do and what we wanted him to do."
Yankees catcher Jorge Posada isn't about to suggest that Burnett should turn into some soft-tossing corner-painter -- power is still going to be Burnett's game when that April 6 start against the Red Sox comes around -- but owning different looks can't hurt.
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"He's an overpowering fastball guy, and we can't get away from that," Posada said. "But having a third pitch is going to make him keep the hitters off balance. That's the biggest thing. We're not going to stay away from his fastball and his curveball. That's his bread and butter.
"It could be effective. We've just got to make sure that it's down. It looks like it's going to be a swing-and-miss pitch. ... It's like a BP two-seamer. It's going to be 90, 91 miles an hour, five to six miles per hour less than his fastball. That's all that we really want."
Girardi said that Burnett would throw the changeup between five to 10 times in any given game last season, so he believed that it could be an effective pitch for him.
"Some days it's going to be better than others," Girardi said. "There are pitchers that won't have their changeup until the second time through the lineup.
"I remember David Wells didn't throw it for the first three innings, and then as he got a little tired, his changeup became real effective. Some pitchers are like that."
Burnett said that he came to camp trying to focus on the changeup more this spring after watching how it worked to complement CC Sabathia's high-octane offerings.
"I've always had it, but why not learn how to use it?" Burnett said. "You can never stop learning in this game. Right now is a good time to learn more."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.