When Philadelphia Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett took the mound a few days ago against the Texas Rangers, he turned in a respectable performance indicative of what should be expected from a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Earlier today against the Chicago Cubs, however, we saw the other side of Burnett — a player who far too often could take the mound this season for the Phillies.
Burnett lasted only 5 2-3 innings against the Cubs, allowing eight runs (four of which were earned) while walking six batters. He wasn’t sharp from the start, as the Cubs jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the opening frame.
While Burnett’s struggles certainly fall on his shoulders, manager Ryne Sandberg didn’t do him an favors either. Burnett threw 109 pitches in a game that was pretty clearly lost early on. That number isn’t astronomical, but on a cold day this early in the year and with a player who has a history of arm issues, maybe Sandberg should have pulled the plug a bit sooner.
When Burnett is on his game, he has the potential to dominate teams for six or seven innings. He’s a very viable option as Philadelphia’s No. 3 starter, considering that’s where he’ll be moved once Cole Hamels returns from injury.
However, things could get hairy for the Phillies this year if Burnett isn’t on his game. While he’s been very good the past two seasons, it should noted that his career earned run average is just barely south of 4.00. He will give up his fair share of runs.
He’s also the type of player who tends to lose his cool when he’s not performing at the level he feels he should. His anger issues are well noted from his time in a New York Yankees uniform. That certainly doesn’t look to be an issue right now, but if Burnett sees his struggles persist, you never know what could happen.
Chalk this one up as just a bad start for Burnett. He’ll look to rebound in a few days with his first start at Citizens Bank Park, but a similar outing could be cause for concern for the Phillies’ $16 million man.