Newly acquired Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett hopes a change of scenery from pressure-packed New York to a smaller market will help revive his slumping career, the right-hander said on Monday. Burnett, who helped the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009, his first season with the team, went 21-26 over the last two years and was dealt to Pittsburgh on Sunday. “It was fun there, though I probably just put too much pressure on myself after the first couple of years,” Burnett said during a news conference at the Pirates’ Spring Training camp in Florida.
“I got a (World Series) ring there. I played for a great manager, in a great city, with Hall of Famers. But that chapter’s closed. I’ll take it and run.” Burnett, who made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut with the Florida Marlins in 1999, set career highs in almost every single pitching category in 2008 with the Toronto Blue Jays before leaving to join the Yankees.
He signed a five-year, US$82.5 million contract with the Yankees that runs through the 2013 season but did not deliver the numbers to match the anticipation. But the Pirates, who will pay US$13 million of the US$33 million Burnett is owed the next two years (New York will pay the remainder), still believe the 35 year old who led the major leagues in wild pitches last year can be an asset. “Our scouts still saw some very good stuff: Power fastball, power in the breaking ball, a changeup he uses more,” said Pittsburgh General Manager Neal Huntington. “If he pounds the strike zone … we believe A.J. can have a very good couple of years for us.”