The New York Yankees get their first taste of the 2011 A.J. Burnett Experience this afternoon at Yankee Stadium against the Detroit Tigers (4:10 p.m., FOX). No one knows for sure if the Yankees will get good A.J. or bad A.J.
Burnett, 34, is an often mystifying right-hander whose performance does not always measure up to quality of the pitches he possesses. His first two seasons in pinstripes were typical.
In 2009, the Yankees mostly saw the 'good A.J. He went 13-9 with a 4.22 ERA and helped pitch the Yankees to their 27th World Series title. In 2010, the Yankees got a heavy dose of the 'bad A.J.' as Burnett struggled through a 10-15 season with a 5.26 ERA and was bypassed by the team in the first round of the playoffs.
Those two seasons are a microcosm of Burnett's career. Some very good, some very bad. Sometimes from inning to inning.
No doubt, the Yankees need the 'good A.J.' in 2011. With Andy Pettitte having retired the Yankees are sending that message loud and clear by pitching Burnett in their second game of the season. Whether or not Burnett is up to the challenge will go a long way toward determining the ultimate success or failure of the Yankees' 2011 season.
We begin to find out the answer today.