Tag: AJ Burnett

Pirates’ A.J. Burnett Will Wear Custom-Made Batman Cleats at the All-Star Game

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett will sport custom-made Batman cleats from 3N2 on the mound at Great American Ball Park in Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

“Self expression is important to me,” Burnett said in a 3N2 press release. “When I’m on the mound I want there to be no mistaking who I am and what I’m out there to do. 3N2 has given me the freedom to fuse my personality with my game.”

The 17-year major league veteran is a first-time All-Star, named to the National League team by manager Bruce Bochy.


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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on David Price, Alex Rios and More

With a mere nine days remaining until the MLB trade deadline on July 31, rumors are swirling around multiple contenders and pretenders around the league.

A few surprise teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers are well outside of the mix and looking to move veteran players. Then there are franchises looking to make the postseason this year hoping to add those valuable assets.

As several division races heat up, the time is now for teams to make a move that can help them. Teams like the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates are on the outside looking in with a chance to contend.

Here’s a look at the latest rumors surrounding some of the biggest trade prospects in the MLB.


Winning Affecting Possible David Price Move for Rays

For a team like the Rays, this has been a disappointing season thus far. But with a five-game winning streak, all seems back to normal in Tampa Bay, right? Wrong.

Two straight series wins over the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins before and after the All-Star break would appear to be a great sign for the Rays. Unfortunately, all it has done is complicate matters for the franchise and David Price, in particular.

Buster Olney of ESPN (subscription required) provides the latest on rumors about the starting pitcher:

The Rays will factor many things into their decision as to whether to trade Price, including their place in the standings, how well they are playing, their need for prospects and Price’s trade value, which gradually slides downward as he nears free agency. But one executive involved in the conversations with Tampa Bay believes that, ultimately, it’s the potential buyers that will clarify the choice for the Rays with the quality of their offers. 

Will he stay or will he go? That’s the question Tampa Bay must answer before July 31 while they also look to climb back into the AL East race.

Currently fourth in the division at 47-53, the Rays still have a shot to overtake every other team in the East. The Baltimore Orioles currently hold the lead but are without injured Matt Wieters, and the New York Yankees have question marks with Masahiro Tanaka.

Basically, what the decision will come down to now is simply how aggressive teams are in trying to acquire Price. The former Cy Young winner has been nearly flawless during July, pitching 31.2 innings over four starts while allowing just three earned runs, including his last two scoreless starts.

Making a swap for Price won’t be easy, and it clearly won’t be a given anymore with the Rays winning again. With Wil Myers reporting progress with his wrist injury and Chris Archer pitching well in three of his last four starts, the Rays have youth to get back into the chase.

Whether or not Price will be a part of that climb will be decided by July 31.


Alex Rios Among Potential Targets for Royals

He might not be showing the same power from years prior, but Alex Rios has still been a consistent force at the plate this season.

Unfortunately, his offensive prowess has been on the Texas Rangers, a team that was 3-14 during the month of July. That makes them dealers on the trade market and fifth in the AL West.

For the Kansas City Royals, the team is trying to make a push for their first postseason berth since winning the World Series in 1985. With a slumping offense, the Royals apparently have interest in Rios, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:

The Royals are looking for corner bats as they try to fix their offensive woes and get back into the AL Central race, and Rangers right fielder Alex Rios is one player they’ve considered.

Kansas City is 14th in the AL with a .687 OPS and 12th with 388 runs, so it understands it needs some help.

Heyman goes on to say that the Royals are also interested in other options like Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown, but Rios is a clear option for the team. With his consistency at the plate, the Rangers slugger might just be what Kansas City needs in the lineup.

Looking for their first playoff berth in nearly 20 years, the Royals will still have to overtake both the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians. Following a sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City might be another fringe team like the Rays when the deadline comes.


A.J. Burnett Drawing Interest from Pirates

On the heels of a three-game winning streak, the Pirates are right back in the thick of the NL Central race. If they plan on overtaking both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals along with holding off the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh will need help in the starting rotation.

Help might just be on the way in the form of a familiar face, as Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reports:

During his two seasons with the Pirates, Burnett finished with a 26-21 record and never saw his ERA rise above 3.51 either year. He also collected over 180 strikeouts both seasons as he returned to form after three down seasons with the Yankees.

If the Pirates truly do have interest, it could wind up being huge for both sides. Burnett is currently on a Philadelphia Phillies team that is nowhere near a playoff spot and Pittsburgh needs help to get there.

While several other teams might be looking to add Burnett, the familiarity of Pittsburgh might be just what both sides need.


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Why A.J. Burnett Is Perfect for Orioles, Safe Bet in AL East

You don’t come across perfect free-agent fits that often. A lot of players fill needs, but not budgets. Some players fill needs and budgets, but not long-term plans. And so on. You know how it is.

I guess that makes today a special day, for today we have an excuse to talk about a rare perfect free-agent fit: A.J. Burnett and the Orioles.

On an otherwise slow Tuesday, this was the big news from Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles are “definitely” interested in Burnett. To a point where he now might be at the top of the club’s wish list, if one source is to be believed.

Cue an image in my head of a bunch of Orioles fans shouting “Finally!” in unison.

It’s been that kind of winter. The Jim Johnson trade is the biggest splash the Orioles have made, and that involved the Orioles losing the star closer. They only got Jemile Weeks in that deal, and other pieces brought in by Dan Duquette include Ryan Webb, David Lough, Delmon Young and Alfredo Aceves. Grant Balfour was almost signed, but then he wasn’t

After winning 93 games in 2012, the Orioles took a step back to 85 wins in 2013. If their offseason haul ends up looking like, well, that when all is said and done, another step back will be in the cards.

But Burnett? Besides being the big-ticket addition Orioles fans have been waiting for, he’s also a big-ticket addition the Orioles can make and one that would solve a big problem that needs solving.

As of now, Cot’s Baseball Contracts has Baltimore’s salary commitments for 2014 at a modest $72 million. Baseball-Reference has the club’s final payroll projected in the low $80 million range.

Baltimore opened 2013 at $92 million. If we look at the going price for pitching in this winter’s market and assume that Burnett can be signed for between $10 and $15 million, the Orioles’ payroll would either be hardly budging or only going up a few million bucks. Not a lot to ask, that.

Plus, there’s the fact that Burnett isn’t tied to draft-pick compensation after the Pirates declined to make him a qualifying offer. Couple that with how he’s a candidate for a one-year deal—he is 37 and was said to be weighing retirement, after all—and we’re looking at a signing that has virtually zero chance of hurting the Orioles in the long run.

As for the big problem Burnett would fix, well, maybe you haven’t looked at Baltimore’s projected rotation in a while. Right now, the only sure things are:

  1. Chris Tillman
  2. Wei-Yin Chen
  3. Bud Norris
  4. Miguel Gonzalez

And that’s it. The hope for the No. 5 spot is young right-hander Kevin Gausman, and the job may be his to lose given the lack of real competition.

So yeah, not good.

The lack of depth is concerning. And while there’s some decent talent in the mix, it’s really only decent. According to FanGraphs, none of the aforementioned five guys was worth more than 2.0 WAR in 2013. Steamer’s projections say that none will be worth more than 2.2 WAR in 2014.

Now we come to the point in our program where we portray Burnett as a white knight based on what he did in 2012 and 2013 and what he’s projected to do in 2014:

After a bounce-back 2012 season, Burnett was about twice as valuable as any Orioles starter in 2013. And right now, he’s projected to be considerably more valuable in 2014 than any Orioles starter.

By no means should anyone be afraid to believe it. Burnett’s been a quality innings-eater in each of the last two seasons, something you can say about none of Baltimore’s current starters. He was an elite strikeout merchant in 2013, something the Orioles didn’t have.

To this end, it’s surprisingly reasonable to anticipate Burnett keeping it going. He still has one of the game’s nastier curveballs, and Brooks Baseball can show that his velocity actually went up in 2013.

If there’s something that might give one pause, it’s the reality that signing with the Orioles would not only take Burnett out of PNC Park (an extreme pitchers’ park) and put him at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (an extreme hitters’ park), but would also return him to the AL East.

The last time Burnett was pitching in the AL East, he was compiling a 5.20 ERA and giving up 56 homers between 2010 and 2011 as a member of the Yankees. He, uh, didn’t look so good.

But here’s the thing: Burnett is not the same pitcher he was when he was wearing pinstripes. He’s changed, and for the better.

That change is mostly in how Burnett handles his business when it comes to throwing heat. According to Brooks Baseball, here’s how his balance between his four-seamer and his sinker has evolved:

Burnett’s sinker used to play second fiddle to his four-seamer. In his two years in Pittsburgh, it was the other way around.

The result was what you would expect: Burnett’s ground-ball percentage skyrocketed. After sitting below 50 percent in each of his three years in New York, Burnett’s 56.7 GB% over the last two seasons ties him with Justin Masterson for second-best among all qualified starters.

This transformation helps alleviate any concerns of Burnett becoming as homer-prone as he was the last time he was pitching in the AL East. Ground balls play well everywhere, be it OPACY, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park or Rogers Centre.

It should also be acknowledged that Burnett would not be pitching in front of, say, the 2012 or 2013 Detroit Tigers defense. The Orioles were seventh in defensive efficiency in 2013, according to Baseball Prospectus. They were second in Ultimate Zone Rating.

Not much should change in 2014. Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy will still be on the left side, forming arguably the best defensive duo in the American League. Former shortstop Jonathan Schoop should be good enough at second base. Chris Davis is nothing special at first, but he is hardly a liability.

All things considered, maybe the biggest question is whether the Orioles make as much sense for Burnett as he makes for them. But the Orioles could be in worse standing there, too, as they might be able to sell Burnett on the notion of him being their missing link. Another thing they can offer him, of course, is a chance to pitch in his own backyard. Burnett lives in the Baltimore area.

If Burnett’s willing, the Orioles should be even more willing. He’s a pitcher they don’t need to break the bank to afford, and he has both the track record and the makings to be a top-of-the-rotation arm for a rotation that needs one.

It could happen. It might happen. Heck, it should happen. It’s just too perfect.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.


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Ranking the 10 Most Shocking MLB Trades of 2012

MLB personnel moves are frequently prefaced by fan speculation, media probing or an executive announcement. Somebody usually spoils the surprise.

This article celebrates 10 exceptions to that norm that were completed in 2012.

The players involved ranged from future first-ballot Hall of Famers to lifetime reserves. The reasons for relocation varied, too.

However, they all understand what it’s like to be moved in a shocking trade.

Let’s review their experiences from the past year.

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Bronx Bombs: Ten Years of Yankees Pitching Duds

Quacky curmudgeon Scrooge McDuck had a giant silo of gold coins to swim in.  Eccentric pop icon Michael Jackson owned the Elephant Man’s dirty old bones.  “Big Pants” MC Hammer bought a $12 million mansion that housed nearly 20 racehorses. 

Just because you have loads of cash doesn’t mean you always spend it wisely.

Theatrical New York Yankees radio announcer John Sterling has often chuckled and stated, “You can’t predict baseball”.  To be fair, Sterling churns out a lot of goofy jibber-jabber on a daily basis, but ol’ John really hit the pinstriped nail on the head with that one.

You can be certain any lifelong Yankees fan has heard many a naysayer spin yarns about the team winning numerous World Championships by buying All-Star caliber teams.  The team’s General Manager is named “Cashman” after all. 

The hole in that theory is that play on the field and deep pockets don’t naturally go hand in hand.  Sure, piles of dough can assure that a team can be competitive, but money doesn’t account for injury, team chemistry, or that all-important Rudy-ish “fight in the dog” spirit. 

Simply stated:  Loads of dollars do not a championship make.  Need further proof?  Go count the number of rings on Jason Giambi’s fingers.

For all its success, superstars, and timeless tradition, the so-called “Evil Empire” hasn’t been free from bad signings, especially when it comes to the mound on East 161st Street in the Bronx.  In the blink of an eye, good intentions go sour like milk in the summer sun and what may seem like a wise investment can go flat in a season’s time. 

60 feet, six inches.  Sometimes that short distance can be quite the journey.

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MLB Spring Training: A.J. Burnett Back with the Pittsburgh Pirates After Surgery

Pittsburgh Pirates offseason addition A.J. Burnett re-joined the team Saturday for spring training in Bradenton, Florida just a little over a week after surgery, according to the Associated Press

He made 50 throws in the bullpen and rode an exercise bike after getting the official okay to resume workouts.

“The first few (throws) were a little hairy, I’m not going to lie,” Burnett told AP. “But it went fine. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I’m glad to be back down here with the guys.”

The former New York Yankee went under the knife eight days ago to repair a fractured orbital bone around his right eye that the starting pitcher sustained during a now-infamous bunting drill on February 29.

Although it’s a positive sign, Burnett is still expected to miss two to three months. If he had opted not to have surgery, doctors told him he would be at risk of developing double-vision down the road.

“For what I do, my eyesight is pretty important, so why take a chance of it not healing the right way?,” said Burnett. “They could’ve let it heal, but there’s a chance it wouldn’t heal smooth, the eye wouldn’t move right and there’d be double vision.”

As for that fateful February day, Burnett said he won’t dwell on it.

There’s not much I could’ve done, other than pull the bat back. You can’t look back at it. I had my day of tears, lying in the hotel room wondering why it happened. I’m over that now. I want to move in a positive direction and get back on the field.

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New York Yankees 2012 Rotation at a Glance

Following a dormant pre-holidays period, the New York Yankees have been active in the trade and free-agent markets recently, signing former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million deal.

The Yankees then traded stud catching prospect Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for 22-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda and a minor leaguer. It was a flurry of activity that was aimed at improving the Yankees’ shaky starting rotation, which was considered a glaring weakness that needed to be addressed.

New York already has a bona fide ace in CC Sabathia, who has been good for at least 19 wins and 230 innings per year since joining the team before the 2009 season. Sabathia will continue to anchor the staff in 2012, but there was uncertainty surrounding who could be counted on after CC takes his turn.

Right-hander Ivan Nova, 16-4 last season, emerged as a solid No. 2. He logged 165.1 IP in his rookie season last year, along with a 3.70 ERA. Expectations heading into this season are that Nova will follow up his solid rookie campaign with another 15- to 20-win season.

The third spot in the rotation will likely be filled by the newly acquired Hiroki Kuroda. The veteran was 13-16 with a bad Dodgers team in 2011, but he logged a solid 3.07 ERA over a respectable 202.0 innings. On a contending team like the Yankees, Kuroda should be able to post a winning record in the high teens.

Slot No. 4 would feature another newly acquired Yankee, Michael Pineda. The young fire-baller struck out 173 batters in 171.0 IP during his rookie season, the most Ks by a pitcher 22 or under since Kerry Wood  in 1998. Pineda also ranked first among MLB right-handed starters in opponents batting average, holding hitters to a .184 BA.

The Yankees’ fifth spot is a bit more murky. A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes are expected to compete for the final turn in the rotation.

Burnett, who could be moved before spring training, possibly for an everyday DH, is the latest in a long line of overpriced, under-performing free-agent pitchers the Yankees have signed over the last decade. His high salary and low production could present a problem on the trading block.

Hughes, an 18-game winner in 2010, missed a large part of 2011 with arm fatigue, pitching only 74.2 innings and posting a 5-5 record. Hughes’ arm issues are a huge question mark, and he’ll face an uphill battle to make the rotation heading into 2012.

Garcia, 34, is coming off a 12-8 season in which he logged 146.2 IP and a 3.62 ERA. He’s a proven veteran who should be considered the favorite for the fifth spot.

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MLB: 5 Pitchers Who Should Bounce Back in 2011

Up until the recent wave of new-age statistics were introducted to baseball fans around the globe, the only way fans could decide what type of season a pitcher had was by looking at wins, ERA and WHIP. Over the last decade, however, stats such as batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB) have allowed fans to get a better glimpse into which pitchers were plain bad and which were just having some bad luck.

So which 5 pitchers are the best bets to bounce back in 2011? Let’s examine the numbers.

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MLB Pitchers on the Mend: 10 Hurlers Trying To Make Comebacks in 2011

It’s a fickle life in Major League Baseball. Here today, gone tomorrow is a phrase often used when referring to ballplayers who had a quick run of success before seemingly losing it altogether, or players felled by injuries who were unable to make it all the way back.

The stories of great fame and then injury go back many years in baseball, especially among pitchers. Dizzy Dean was a classic example.

Known as the Ace of the Gashouse Gang for the St. Louis Cardinals, Dean was the last pitcher to win 30 games in the National League, reaching that mark in 1934.

However in 1937, Dean was struck by a line drive off the bat of Earl Averill, during that year’s All-Star game, fracturing his left big toe.

When Dean attempted to come back too soon after the injury, he altered his motion, which hurt his throwing shoulder, thereby robbing him of his famous fastball. Although Dean continued to pitch for several more seasons, he never approached his earlier success.

Another example was Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steve Blass. Between the years of 1968-1972, Blass was one of the better and more durable pitchers in the National League.

He amassed four 15-win seasons in five years, his best in 1972, when he posted a 19-8 record with a 2.49 earned run average, earning him a runner-up finish behind Steve Carlton in the NL Cy Young award balloting.

Blass also won two games for the Pirates in the 1971 World Series, including the clinching Game 7 victory in which Blass threw a four-hitter in Game 3.

However, in 1973, Blass slipped to 3-9 with a 9.85 ERA, and was in the minors the following season. Blass completely lost the ability to throw strikes, and his control never returned. He was out of baseball by 1975.

This season, there are quite a few pitchers who are attempting to either come back from injuries, or trying to salvage a mess of a season the year before.

We rank the top 10 pitchers who will be attempting a comeback to glory for the 2011 MLB season.

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Yankees Have No Choice but to Put Faith in A.J. Burnett

It was the snapshot that summed up a season: A.J. Burnett standing on the mound in disbelief, his hands on top of his head, while a pumped up Bengie Molina carried his impressive gut around the base-paths at Yankee Stadium.

The Texas catcher’s three-run homer in Game Four of the ALCS neatly accomplished two feats—it effectively ended the Yankees‘ repeat hopes while also putting a bow on Burnett’s miserable second season in the Bronx.

How awful was Burnett in 2010? He was Creed-awful. He was 2001 Kobe Bryant rap single “K.O.B.E.“-awful. He was Dane Cook movie-awful. You hear me? Dane Cook movie-awful, people! Have you ever seen My Best Friend’s Girl?

Thirty-three starts, 186 2/3 innings, 204 hits, 5.26 ERA, a 10-15 record—and those numbers don’t begin to do justice to how bad Burnett was for long stretches in 2010. When Dave Eiland mysteriously disappeared for six weeks last summer, perhaps we all missed the obvious explanation—Burnett had driven the beleaguered pitching coach into hiding.

Enter Larry Rothschild, whose principle job as Eiland’s replacement was to somehow fix a very expensive broken piece of machinery. It’s pretty much a sure thing that part of Rothschild’s interview process involved a detailed battle plan for salvaging Burnett, who’s entering the third-year of a getting-worse-by-the-minute five-year, $82.5 million deal signed in December 2008.

Rothschild has likely studied plenty of tape from Burnett’s 2010 season, which I surmise was as pleasurable as watching The Human Centipede in 3D. What he saw was two pitchers—one very good (April, May, July) and one comically bad (June, August, September). After escaping the maniacal clutches of Carlos Zambrano in Chicago, Rothschild must be wondering what he did to deserve this.

He’ll quickly learn that when it comes to Burnett, it’s all about taking the good with the bad. That’s something Brian Cashman knew even before he brought the pitcher to New York. Sure, Burnett let Molina and the Rangers throw a Molotov cocktail at their 2010 postseason, but we can’t forget starts like Game Two of the 2009 World Series, when Burnett overwhelmed a loaded Phillies lineup over seven brilliant innings.

His performance that night was one of the best—and most important—in recent franchise playoff history. It makes it all the more frustrating when he goes through funks like last June, when he went 0-5 with a 11.35 ERA. It’s hard to be that dreadful. It’s almost as if there’s an A.J. Burnett doppelganger out there pulling a Frank Drebin/Enrico Pallazzo move as the real Allan James lays hog-tied in the clubhouse.

Now, the scary part. When Andy Pettitte decided to stay in Deer Park and Cliff Lee had his cheese-steak epiphany, Burnett suddenly, unbelievably, became the key to the Yankees’ 2011 season. I peed myself a little just writing that last sentence. Seriously.

If Burnett can’t figure out a way to turn it around, the Yankees have virtually no chance of going back to the postseason. As it stands, the team already needs something in the neighborhood of 40 wins between CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, the former coming off knee surgery and the latter armed with just one full season of starting experience. The back end of the rotation is a well-chronicled work in progress, making Burnett the link between both sides of the rotation.

You know that with Burnett we won’t get much in the way of middle ground. He’ll either be the glue that holds the rotation together, or he’ll be the one who flicks the match on a haystack soaked in kerosene. In other words, if Burnett didn’t already have enough pressure on himself to get his career back on track, he also holds his team’s fate in his hands.

I need to go lay down.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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