Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia poised to enter their New York Yankees years

On the surface, new Yankees CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett could be considered an odd pairing.

There's Burnett, 32, the soft-spoken power pitcher who lives for strikeouts like his childhood idol, Nolan Ryan. The lean Little Rock, Ark., native who used to live on the wild side has matured quite a bit — off the field and on the mound, where he has been dominant at times, yet still deals with questions about his durability (10 stints on the disabled list).

Then there's Sabathia, 28, the joyful California-cool southpaw, whose wide smile and football-player build make him a presence in any clubhouse. Sabathia's Herculean effort during the stretch drive for the Brewers last season — making several starts on short rest — gave him an aura of invincibility.

But the two have found they have more in common than just their tattooed arms.

"We're both laid-back cats," Burnett said, grinning. "If he had an idea, I'd be game for it."

And they both love pitching in big games, which is why they signed with the Yankees, who are betting a combined $243.5 million that Burnett and Sabathia are a perfect match to bring them their first World Series title since 2000.

"I'm definitely excited to be playing on this big stage," said Sabathia, whose seven-year, $161 million deal is the largest for a pitcher in MLB history. "I'm definitely glad I've got a guy like A.J. that we can walk into this together, and we can lean on each other. We just laugh about that stuff. It's good to have somebody to bounce that off."

Burnett bounced back from some injury-plagued seasons to have one of the best years of his career in 2008, when he went 18-10 with the Blue Jays and led the American League in starts and strikeouts. Burnett said he gleaned a lot from Roy Halladay about mound presence and preparation between starts, pointing out he doesn't feel like he has to light up the radar gun with every throw.

Though Burnett has topped 200 innings only three times in his 10-year career, it has gone up the past three seasons, when he has been a beast against AL East teams (19-7 with a 3.29 ERA in 34 starts).

"I learned my lesson in Toronto when I went there and tried to do too much after my last contract," said Burnett, who signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal in December. "I'm pretty much just going to be me and pitch. If I stay healthy and take the ball every five days, that will speak for itself."

Sabathia had the mentality of seemingly taking the ball every day last season for the Brewers, when he strapped the club's playoff hopes on his back, ending a 26-year postseason drought by making his last three starts on three days' rest. Though some worried about injuries — especially entering free agency — Sabathia "felt unbelievable."

"I had to turn my phone off to block my calls from my agent (Greg Genske), because he was freaking out," Sabathia said. "He was pretty upset. But like I said, I felt fine and I wanted to win. I think anybody healthy enough in that situation would have done the same thing."

Sabathia and Burnett join Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain to form a formidable rotation that Burnett said, "has no back end," and one that veteran catcher Jorge Posada said reminds him of the team's glory years of the 1990s.

"Knowing we have a guy that we have a chance to win with every night, that's special," Posada said. "Think of the years that we won, we had a five-man rotation. We understand we had a chance to win every night. And that's important to know the offense doesn't really have to score six runs or seven runs to win games. It was something that we needed."

A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia poised to enter their New York Yankees years 02/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 28, 2009 12:04am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Yankees game

    The Heater

    The 10 strikeouts look flashy, but RHP Chris Archer was not his sharpest Thursday. He allowed three runs on seven hits, including three straight in the two-run second and a Gary Sanchez homer in the third, and lasted only six innings, throwing 102 pitches.

  2. Rays fall to Yankees in 11 on Brett Gardner homer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The front office did its part Thursday, making two trades to bolster the roster in a push for the playoffs. But the Rays didn't follow up in a frustrating 6-5 11-inning loss to the Yankees.

    Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge stands on the mound and can only watch as the Yankees’ Brett Gardner starts to circle the bases after his walkoff home run leading off the 11th inning.
  3. Believe it! Rays are buyers, trade for reliever Dan Jennings and 1B/DH Lucas Duda

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Dan Jennings' ability to render lefty hitters useless with a sinker that gets beaten into the ground and Lucas Duda's power to blast baseballs off and over outfield walls should make the Rays better.

    Lucas Duda
  4. Bucs' direction is decidedly up for first time in several years


    TAMPA — If you want to see a team give the Heisman Trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Tight end O.J. Howard, left, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year, was brought in to give QB Jameis Winston another big-play option.
  5. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Friday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.