CLEARWATER, Fla. — The coincidences were not lost on A.J. Burnett. He inherited Roy Halladay's No. 34 with the Phillies and will assume his spot in the rotation. And that, Burnett said, is where the comparisons should end.
"There is no replacing Roy Halladay," Burnett said, "let's start with that right there."
Burnett was Halladay's teammate for three seasons (2006-08) in Toronto. The way Burnett explains it, Halladay played a heavy influence in his career.
"Coming up I really didn't watch video, and I threw hard and that's all I really worried about," Burnett said. "Then you get around someone who lives it, loves it. Roy Halladay made me realize what I'm here for. It's not just to be A.J. in the major leagues and be a Major League Baseball player. It's about helping the young kids, leading by example, doing more when maybe you want to do less.
"The main thing I learned from Roy was the four days between starts. It's hard as a young guy to stay focused, watch games and be in everything. When I saw him and everything he did, I realized my job was about more than what I do every fifth day."
Burnett has friends in the Phillies organization — assistant general manager Scott Proefrock is one — and Ruben Amaro Jr. attempted to use that to his advantage.
"I tried to have Roy talk to him a few times," Amaro said.
"He did tell me his house was available," Burnett said, "and I was like, 'Hold on.'"
Burnett said his time in Pittsburgh rejuvenated his desire to pitch into his late 30s. He soured on New York, was labeled as a pitcher who could not handle the pressured environment, and was jettisoned to the Pirates. For the first time, he embraced a role as elder statesman.
"I found who I was again," Burnett said. "I went there — and I'd never put myself as a Halladay — but as far as a mentor-and-player relationship, that's what I became over there. I never really looked at myself as that guy, but as soon as I walked in that door, that's who I was."
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