A.J. Burnett and the Pittsburgh Pirates are a match made in heaven. Burnett joined the Pirates prior to the 2012 season after he was acquired from the New York Yankees in exchange for two low-level minor-league players. The Yankees were ready to move on from Burnett, and the pitcher was definitely ready to get out of New York. The Pirates were on the verge of becoming a legitimate contender in the National League, but they needed some veteran help from outside the organization. Burnett was that man.
The city of Pittsburgh has embraced Burnett and his leadership qualities. Pirates fans love that Burnett is interactive on Twitter, they love how he recognizes the fans and their support any chance he gets. He is an extremely likable guy, and his on-field performance makes him even easier to like.
After a few rough seasons with the Yankees, Burnett has been a steady presence for the Pirates in both of his seasons with the team. In 57 starts with the Pirates over the past two seasons, Burnett is 23-20 with a 3.42 ERA while racking up 365.1 innings pitched. He isn’t an ace, but he is a quality second or third starter.
With most good things, there are also some bad things that come with them. For Burnett, the bad thing can be his emotions at times. For the most part, he is able to control his emotions and use them to his benefit, but at times he can react negatively to certain situations.
A few months ago, after Pirates manager Clint Hurdle got the bullpen activated, Burnett left the field after getting the third out of an inning and motioned to the bullpen to sit down. Hurdle didn’t appreciate that, and feeling that he was disrespected, got in Burnett’s face. Burnett reacted by yelling back. After the game, they both downplayed the situation, but it was obvious that this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened.
The Pirates are one of the most aggressive teams when it comes to defensive shifting. Hurdle likes to position his defense to where the ball is most likely to be hit, like several other managers are beginning to do. On Wednesday afternoon, Burnett forced a batter to hit a ground ball to where the shortstop, Clint Barmes, would normally be positioned. The ball was able to sneak through the infield because Barmes was positioned closer to second base than he normally would be. Burnett didn’t like this and proceeded to yell at Barmes, voicing his displeasure.
Much like Hurdle did before, Barmes downplayed the situation, saying it is just part of the game. For me, however, Burnett is a veteran and he needs to start acting like it.