It takes a lot for Ryne Sandberg to criticize one of his players publicly but the Phillies manager is clearly frustrated with the recent performance of righthander A.J. Burnett.
All season, Burnett has had some nasty stuff on the mound, but he goes extended periods when he can’t consistently find the strike zone and ends up pitching behind in counts.
That occurred during Friday’s 5-4 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Burnett allowed five earned runs in six innings.
He has a 6.67 ERA since the all-star break and it’s been the same old story – falling behind hitters, which is irking his manager.
“A lot of times tonight, looking up, it was 2-0 or 3-1 pitches, he’s got to catch a lot of the plate there and he does,” Sandberg said of Burnett. “And he tends to elevate in those situations, too.”
The Mets scored four runs in the fourth inning on six hits.
“Those are the balls that they hit tonight in that inning, it’s more or less falling behind, maybe trying to be too fine early on,” Sandberg said. “They are hitter’s counts and he’s finding a lot of plate with his pitches.”
When Burnett was told what Sandberg had said he could do nothing but agree with his manager.
“I've got to get the ball back in the zone, get back in my lanes and get the ball back on the corners where it belongs,” Burnett said.
To demonstrate how much Burnett was struggling, he threw 113 pitches in just six innings, 71 for strikes.
He only walked two batters but got behind several.
While Sandberg showed his annoyance, nobody is more disappointed than Burnett.
“It is just one of those grinds, man,” Burnett said. “I have to figure out a way to stay positive.”
Not the easiest of tasks, especially during this recent inconsistent run that is ruining a once-promising season for the 37-year-old righthander.