By Jon Lane
A.J. Burnett was adamant about his defense of Jorge Posada during a dugout chat with reporters on Wednesday, and reiterated his success throwing to both Posada and Jose Molina. But he admitted to having a better rapport with Molina, which is why Joe Girardi – not Burnett – made the risky call to bench Posada and start Molina in Game 2.
“It’s more of kind of a ‘me’ rhythm,” Burnett said. “It’s being able to throw both heaters any time I want. And just working off of that. Four seam, two, seam. Just whenever, inside, out and not really worrying about calling it, kind of working a faster pace. He just keeps me going at a little quicker pace. We seem to click.”
Molina shrugged his shoulders and wondered why there was such a fuss over Posada’s disappointment in not being behind the plate and how he suddenly found himself in the middle of it.
“I always say and I will keep saying the same thing, the manager’s Joe,” Molina said. “He writes it down my name, I will play. I’m ready. If Jorge don’t like it that’s him, but you guys have to ask him about that not me. But Joe is the manager. He puts me in the lineup and I play.”
Thanks to Larry Fleischer for the quote. Girardi is also considering starting Brett Gardner in center field, but indicated he’ll probably stick with Melky Cabrera.
Girardi’s been down this road before, having been asked by Joe Torre to take a seat in favor of Jorge Posada. Posada has too, but it was different in 2005 with Randy Johnson’s insistence of throwing to John Flaherty. What worked in September that season backfired in Game 3 of the DS when The Big Unit was rocked for five runs on nine hits in three innings.
That’s one reason why Molina dismissed any thought about certain pitchers responding better to particular catchers.
“You guys have to understand that the one who has the ball is the pitcher,” Molina said. “He’s the one who’s going to decide what he’s going to throw. We just suggest what the pitch could be. But when the pitcher has something in the mind, they’re going to throw it no matter what. I prefer a pitcher be 100 percent in his pitch than 50 (percent) in my pitch.”
Girardi left open the possibility that he may not remain committed to a Molina-Burnett battery if the Yankees advance to the LCS. But let’s face it: This may be the right move – you live and die by pitching in the postseason and if any starter is on his ‘A’ game on any given night, Ted Williams ain’t hitting him – but it’s also a huge risk. A bad start by Burnett and you know Posada will be seething and asking himself, “I’m the problem?”
“No, I’m not worried about it,” Girardi said. “I never saw Joe Torre fret about it. I never saw Bobby Cox fret about it when Javier Lopez didn’t catch Greg Maddux. I never saw them worry about it. You put the club out there that you feel should be out there that evening, and then you hope that your club makes plays and throws the ball well. And that’s what you do, so, I mean, that’s the decision that I made.”
Burnett on what’s worked and why he’s not surprised Posada will be on the bench
“I figured he was going to catch because we had a good rhythm in the past handful of starts,” Burnett said. “I guess it’s a comfort level. It’s maybe having the same guy out there every day and not mixing it in and out. And just getting the feel of him wanting to know what I want to do on a consistent basis instead of having to come in and out and figure out what we’re doing. It’s the same game plan every day. Just sticking to it.
“I’m not surprised because what Jorge is to this organization and what he’s done in the post season. He’s the leader in this clubhouse. He’s the leader in the dugout. When he’s out there, even when he’s not playing, he’s very vocal and he’s very — he’s around all the time. So I imagine what — how he’s feeling, you know. But like I said, I figured it was going to happen just because of the handful of starts that Molina caught me. And I’m just going to worry about taking my starts tomorrow. Molina is back there, skip made the decision and there’s really nothing we can do about it.”
Molina on creating comfort and rhythm:
“You have to find the right words and time to do it,” Molina said. “If the guy is giving up a lot of runs, you know that’s not the right time to say something. So you hold off until whenever is the right time. You just gain trust. It’s just about trust.”