It doesn’t sound as though A.J. Burnett is bullpen bound


Yankees GM Brian Cashman came to the defense of beleaguered right-hander A.J. Burnett on Friday amid speculation that the $18 million-per-year pitcher could get sent to the pen.

“The stuff on A.J. is well overblown,” Cashman said. “A.J. Has been solid for us this year. I just think the way it’s playing doesn’t necessarily reflect the way he’s pitched. Let’s put it that way. The public outcry recently is all emotion rather than actual.”

Cashman noted that Burnett, who last won on June 29, hasn’t received the same kind of help Yankees starters typically get.

“If you peel the onion, if he hasn’t won in two months, look at his starts,” he said. “He’s got one of the least amounts of run support. If you break down his start by start scenario and you look at those starts, it’s not bad.”

But it’s not good either.  Burnett has allowed more than four earned runs just three times this year, but he hasn’t turned in a Quality Start (at least six innings, no more than three runs) since that last win eight starts ago against Milwaukee.  By any measure, he’s been the least effective of the Yankees’ six starters.

Still, I’m with Cashman here: it’s worth leaving Burnett in the rotation to see if he can turn it around, in large part because Phil Hughes seems likely to be more useful in the pen come October anyway.  Burnett has never pitched in relief, and it seems unlikely that he’d make a quick adjustment to working out of the pen.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.