I’ve been calling around to folks I know in the industry to piece together a scouting report on current Yankees and probably-soon-to-be Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett. As I was crawling toward the Squirrel Hill tunnel this morning, a long-time American League scout buzzed my iPhone.
From the perspective of Pirates fans, the scout’s news was mostly good: “Burnett still can pitch. Can he win 10 to 12 games this year for the Pirates? Sure. Being back in the National League will help him a lot. His fastball plays at 92-95 mph and when his curveball is on, it’s very good.”
But there’s some bad news, too: “His breaking ball is easy to read when it comes out of his hand … so he’s pretty much a two-pitch pitcher. When things go south on him, he kind of throws his arms up and gives up. And he’s got to be coddled by the pitching coach and the manager. Some of his antics wore thin in the Yankees’ clubhouse, I think.”
In 2009, Burnett began smooshing a whipped cream pie in his teammates’ faces to celebrate walkoff wins. The act was a hit when the Yanks won the World Series, but may have gotten stale the past couple of years. The scout also pointed out that Burnett can be feast-or-famine on the hill. He’ll be dominant and throw a two-hit shutout one start, then get shelled in the first three innings in the next. “He doesn’t give you enough of those middle-of-the-road games — the ones where he gives up three, four or five runs in six or seven innings — to give you a shot.”
The scout’s bottom line: Burnett would improve the Pirates’ rotation, but not enough to make the team a contender for the NL pennant.