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Well-rested A.J. Burnett eager to make Game 4 start for Yankees

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 18, 2010; 10:45 PM

NEW YORK - The New York Yankees will be handing the ball in Game 4 of the ALCS on Tuesday to a man who hasn't pitched in a game in 2½ weeks, a man who had the third-highest ERA (5.26) of any qualifying pitcher in the major leagues, a man who failed to pitch beyond the fourth inning in four of his final eight starts of the regular season.

And to hear the Yankees tell it, they are happy to do so. A.J. Burnett, you're our man.

"We all know A.J. can dial it up," said Yankees Manager Joe Girardi. "And we believe in him."

Despite possessing a workhorse of an ace, lefty CC Sabathia, who was perfectly comfortable in the past pitching on three days' rest, the Yankees will bypass Sabathia in Game 4 and go with Burnett, a right-hander whose inconsistency confounded the Yankees almost from the day he signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract before the 2009 season.

"From the work I've been doing [in practice bullpen sessions], I'm in a pretty good groove," Burnett said Monday. "I haven't pitched [in a game] in a long time, so I haven't struggled in a long time."

The only question remaining for the Yankees, in regards to Game 4, is whether backup catcher Francisco Cervelli will catch Burnett. Burnett had difficulties in the past when starter Jorge Posada has caught him, and in the 2009 postseason then-backup catcher Jose Molina caught Burnett each time he pitched.

"I have no worries that Jorge can handle me," Burnett said. "Whoever is behind the plate, I'll be ready for it."

Jeter's experience factor

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is not only baseball's all-time leader in career postseason at-bats, with 582 entering Monday night, but he also has more than the totality of the Rangers franchise. Entering Monday, the Rangers had amassed 565 postseason at-bats in their history, which began in 1961 as the Washington Senators.

Jeter's 582 postseason at-bats is also more than the Washington Nationals (319) have in their franchise history, dating from its days as the Montreal Expos.

sheinind@washpost.com

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