Burnett struck out 11, walked one and limited the Houston Astros to one run
After contending for a postseason spot most of the year, the youthful Pittsburgh Pirates have fallen to 75-77 and are in danger of yet another sub-.500 finish. At least A.J. Burnett has done his part to make the Pirates a winner. While his team his faded, the 35-year-old right-hander has turned in a bounceback season.
On Sunday, Burnett struck out 11, walked one and limited the Houston Astros to one run and four hits over eight innings in Pittsburgh’s 8-1 victory. Burnett improved to 16-8 with a 3.53 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and a .242 opponent’s batting average. In 188.2 innings, he has allowed 174 hits and has 172 strikeouts.
Burnett has given the Pirates what they anticipated when they acquired him from the New York Yankees for minor leaguers Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones, and cash, last February. Burnett was signed to a five-year, $82.5 million deal by the Yankees after the 2008 season. Burnett, the Yankees thought, would bolster their rotation because of his track record of success in the American League East with Toronto, for which he was 38-26 with a 3.94 ERA over three seasons.
Instead, the eighth round draft pick of the New York Mets in 1995 flopped under the Bronx spotlight. In three seasons with the Yankees, Burnett was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA, including a 5.26 ERA and a 5.15 ERA in his latter two years. The Yankees were eager to find a new destination for Burnett and are paying $11.5 million of his $16.5 million salary in 2012 and $8.5 million of the $16.5 million owed to him next year.
Along with veteran left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (who was acquired earlier in the summer from Houston), Burnett is projected to serve as a mentor and a stabilizing presence in a Pirates rotation that could include high-ceiling right-handers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon as early as some point next season.