Make no mistake: A.J. Burnett is starting Game 4 no matter what

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A lot of nervous Yankees fans have been assuming — or hoping, maybe — that if the Yankees find themselves down 2-1 to the Rangers after tonight that Joe Girardi would pitch CC Sabathia on short rest for Game 4. Not so, says Joe:

Joe Girardi made it clear yesterday that A.J. Burnett would get the ball tomorrow night, regardless of what happens in tonight’s ALCS Game 3. And while the erratic righty has done nothing to instill confidence during his miserable second half, both Girardi and GM Brian Cashman said they think he will come through.

“I believe in A.J.,” Cashman said during the team’s workout yesterday at Yankee Stadium.

The issue, Dan Martin of the Post reports, is Phil Hughes who, if Burnett is to be avoided in this series, would have to go on short rest too and that’s just not in the cards.

And it’s probably smart to go with Burnett anyway, because even if CC Sabathia has done well on short rest in the past, on the whole, using starters like that generally leads to worse production from said starters. Maybe Sabathia was just born to be a 1970s starter and could keep it up forever, but it’s hard to ask the Yankees to bet on that, isn’t it? Even if betting on Burnett feels less safe at the moment?

We know this much at least: Cliff Lee stands a chance to earn more money while he’s sitting on the bench for Game 4 than he does on the mound in Game 3. Because if Burnett crashes and burns the Yankees are going to feel that much more pressure to go out and get another pitcher for next season.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.