Burnett Loses Control & Cool


In a rage after a second consecutive poor inning and more maddening inconsistency, A.J. Burnett wrecked his start - and the game - against the second-place Rays Saturday by slamming both hands into a clubhouse door and cutting the palm of each hand when a plastic lineup-card holder shattered under the impact. Burnett, desperate to stay in the game, then lied to trainers and GM Brian Cashman, telling them he had sliced his hands when he tripped and tried to brace his fall.

Neither the lie nor Burnett's attempt to pitch worked. He convinced an unaware Joe Girardi to let him stay in, but he was gone from the game two batters later when it was clear he could not pitch. His departure left the Yankees in a hole they never climbed out of in a 10-5 loss to Tampa Bay and may leave simmering feelings in the clubhouse - the Yankees were angry when ex-Yankee Kevin Brown broke his left hand by punching a wall in 2004 and there are holdovers from that team.

A sheepish Burnett said after the game that he would apologize to his teammates Sunday and he hoped they would forgive him. But he seemed to realize there may be hard feelings. "They have a right to wonder and have their opinions and I would agree with them if they are angry because right now I'm pretty upset," Burnett said. He added: "The moral is the fact I let these guys down in a game where we weren't out of it that early against a good team that is right behind us in second place.

"I just can't let that happen and it won't ever happen again."

The scene cast a pall of sorts over the second day of ceremonies commemorating the lives of owner George Steinbrenner and P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard, who both died in the past week. Saturday was the Yankees' 64th Old-Timers' Day, but talk of Burnett's bizarre injury dominated the postgame rather than remembrances of either man or any of the former Yankees who were cheered before the game.

Burnett had a sizable Band-Aid on the lower part of his right palm - his pitching hand - but he said he'd make his next start, which comes Friday against the Royals with an extra day of rest. He did not need stitches, and .Girardi said, "We're fortunate the cut isn't in his fingers." Asked if he thought .Burnett would make his next start, Girardi said, "I'm not 100% sure, but nothing leads me to believe he won't."

Burnett, 33, who has perhaps proven fragile mentally as a Yankee, whether it's squabbling over his batterymates or pining for his pitching coach, has lost his cool before. At the end of the 2005 season, the Marlins asked him to leave the team the day after he publicly ripped the organization. He quickly apologized then. Saturday, Burnett was waiting for Girardi in the manager's office after the last out to confess. "I didn't know what to say at first, that's why I came up with what I did for Steve (Donahue, one of the trainers) and what I told Cash," Burnett said. "But I felt it was better to tell the truth to everybody.

"I calmed down and I realized it's not appropriate and it's not the truth and I'm an honest person. . . . I'm more embarrassed than anything."

Burnett (7-8) allowed four runs in two-plus innings, suffering the first loss by a Yankee starter since Javier Vazquez on June 30 against Seattle.

Most of the Yankee players were long gone by the time Burnett was done speaking to reporters. But Curtis Granderson was still in the clubhouse and he said he did not know how Burnett had hurt himself until he was told by reporters. Granderson said he would .accept Burnett's apology and was "sure everybody would. Guys get angry and upset and put more pressure on themselves," Granderson said. "It's frustration."

Cashman said the fact that Burnett had eventually told the truth "showed strength and character. I trust him."

Girardi kept talking about moving on and said he urged Burnett to put the frustration behind him. The manager said he believed Burnett could harness his emotions, and when he was asked if Burnett would face discipline, Girardi .answered, "We've taken care of everything and we'll move forward."

Not true. As Burnett says, he's got one more task - an apology Sunday. Then it's up to the rest of the Yankees to move on, too.

by Anthony McCarron
from nydailynews.com


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