Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Don't count Burnett out for 2015 just yet

A.J. Burnett’s frustration was apparent and nobody should seem surprised. The story remains the same for Burnett, who has dug himself into one big hole after another by pitching behind in counts.

Don't count Burnett out for 2015 just yet

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Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett hands the ball to manager Ryne Sandberg. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett hands the ball to manager Ryne Sandberg. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

A.J. Burnett’s frustration was apparent and nobody should seem surprised. The story remains the same for Burnett, who has dug himself into one big hole after another by pitching behind in counts.

Burnett’s postgame comments got big play, especially when he was asked about whether he will pitch next season.

“I have no idea,” the Phillies righthander said. “Probably not, but we’ll see.”

Ask anybody who has a 6.41 ERA in his last seven starts about next year, and that is a likely answer. A season of going 6-14 with a 4.42 ERA would get to anybody, especially somebody who last year led the National League with 9.85 strikeouts per nine innings.

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What has been most frustrating to Burnett is that as manager Ryne Sandberg said afterwards, the righthander still has great stuff.

Nobody who has seen him this year will dispute it. However, that stuff doesn’t go in the strike zone frequently enough.

And Burnett is not only weary from the losing, but from pitching from behind.

He walked the first two batters and both who scored in setting the tone for Seattle’s 5-2 win over the Phillies on Tuesday.

After allowing the two earned runs to start the game, Burnett now has a 6.00 ERA in the first inning of his 27 starts.

Even after pitching a scoreless second, his ERA in that inning this year is 5.07.

So Burnett is taking too much time to settle in.

"I'm not making pitches when I need to make pitches,” Burnett said. “I did earlier in the year. When I walked some guys and got in a jam I was able to make pitches.”

Through his first eight starts, Burnett’s ERA was 2.90 but it has gotten progressively higher.

So it’s natural that this has been frustrating and just as predictable that at this stage Burnett would say he’s leaning toward hanging it up.

He says the hernia he has been pitching with for much of the season hasn’t been a factor, but who can know that for sure?

Burnett is an accountable athlete who doesn’t like to make excuses.

In addition, there is plenty of financial incentive to return.

According to Cots Baseball Contracts, the 27th start that Burnett just made increased his player option in 2015 to $10 million. It goes to 11.75 million with 30 starts and $12.75 million with 32 starts.

No matter how much an athlete has earned, that is a lot of money to turn down, especially for somebody like Burnett who still insists he can pitch at a high level.

So while right now he says he probably won’t return next season, it’s probably wise to wait until his body and mind have healed from this disastrous season. Only then can he make a rational decision.

Yet besides the fact that there is a lot of money at stake, Burnett is a huge competitor and what player would want to go out on this kind of a downer?

That is why even though his comments suggest that this could likely be his last season, don’t be surprised if he has a change of heart.

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