A.J. Burnett is confident: “Guys don’t want to face me”

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I know A.J. Burnett became something of a joke last year. In much the way I tend to reach for Jeff Francoeur’s name whenever I’m trying for a laugh line about an ineffective hitter, Burnett has sort of become that for people who want to wax pessimistic about a big money, low results pitcher.

Burnett, however, sounds like he’s prepared to render that meme obsolete:

I’m a force out there. Guys don’t want to face me. I just felt like guys didn’t care if they faced me (last year). I feel like I gave them that edge… I came here to win. I came here to pitch. I came here to be behind Big Man. And I wasn’t last year.

I’m not going to say that the power of positive thinking will necessarily fix Burnett’s problems from last year. But it’s also the case that his problems did not seem to be physical ones. The ball would pop more or less. He stuff had bite. It just seemed like he was battling himself and not taking a smart approach to batters.  Maybe this new focus is evidence of change in this regard.

There may not be a player whose performance is more pivotal to his team’s chances in 2011 than A.J. Burnett.  If he’s back to form, there’s every reason to think that the Yankees will give Boston all they can handle.

Report: Cardinals to sign Paul Goldschmidt to five-year contract extension

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Extension season continues. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cardinals and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt are close to an agreement on a five-year extension. The value is believed to be around $130 million, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goldschmidt was set to become a free agent after the season.

The Cardinals acquired Goldschmidt, 31, from the Diamondbacks in December in exchange for Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Andy Young, and a 2019 competitive balance round B pick. The slugger is a six-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and a four-time Silver Slugger Award winner. Goldschmidt owns a career .297/.398/.532 triple-slash line along with 209 home runs, 710 RBI, 709 runs scored, and 124 stolen bases. He is also well-regarded for his defense at first base. As a result, he has accumulated 40.3 Wins Above Replacement over eight seasons, according to Baseball Reference.

With Goldschmidt in place, the Cardinals are set at first base for the foreseeable future. Though Goldschmidt got off to a slow start last season, carrying an OPS barely above .700 into June, he recovered and finished with a .922 OPS. That two-month blip aside, there’s no reason to think Goldschmidt’s production is about to fall off anytime soon.