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Allan James "A. J." Burnett (born January 3, 1977, in North Little Rock, Arkansas) is a right-handed Major League Baseball starting pitcher for the New York Yankees. Previously, he played for the Florida Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the eighth round with the 217th overall pick of 1995 amateur entry draft.

On May 12, 2001, Burnett recorded a no-hitter in a complete game shutout against the San Diego Padres in his second start of the season.

Professional baseball careerEdit

Early career (1995–1999)Edit

Burnett was an eighth-round pick of the New York Mets in the 1995 amateur draft, but he was traded to the Marlins after the 1997 season when the Marlins dismantled their 1997 World Series championship roster. He was first called up to the Marlins from Class AA Portland in 1999, despite having a record of 6–12 and an ERA of 5.52 with Portland.

Major leagues (1999–present)Edit

Florida Marlins (1999–2005)Edit

He played parts of 1999 and 2000 with the Marlins; his first full regular season with the Marlins came in 2001, when he went 11–12 with an ERA of 4.05. On May 12, 2001, Burnett pitched an unusual no-hitter where he walked nine batters. He shut down the Padres in a 3–0 victory, striking out seven. His game-worn cap and a baseball from the game are on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

In 2002, he held an ERA of 3.30 and finished with a 12–9 record and with 203 strikeouts, career bests that he did not top until 2008. He threw the fastest fastball of all major league starters in 2002, averaging 94.9 miles per hour.[1]

Burnett was limited to four starts in 2003 before missing the rest of the season due to Tommy John surgery and thus did not play during the Marlins' World Series championship run. He returned in June 2004 and made 19 starts for the Marlins, going 7–6 with an ERA of 3.68. Even during 2004, his first season back from having the surgery, he was able to throw 102 mph. He was shut down for most of September 2004 due to a less serious elbow injury.

The 2005 season was Burnett's last with the Marlins before he became eligible for free agency. As former teammate Carl Pavano had done in the 2004 off-season, he wanted to test the market rather than take whatever new contract the Marlins gave him. Since he was likely to price himself out of the Marlins' budget, he was sought after by several other teams before the July 31 trade deadline, but he ended up not being traded.

Burnett seemed to be pitching his best games of the season right around the trading deadline. After he took the loss in the Marlins' first game after the All-Star break, dropping his record to 5–6, he strung together seven consecutive wins. The last of those wins was on August 19, when he pitched eight shutout innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He then lost six consecutive decisions, including four losses in five starts (with an ERA in that span of 5.93) during the Marlins' failed wild-card chase in September, to close out the season with a 12–12 record despite a 3.44 ERA.

On September 27, 2005, Burnett was asked by the Marlins to leave the team. The request came a day after he made comments criticizing the organization: "We played scared. We managed scared. We coached scared," he told reporters following the Marlins' 5–3 loss at Turner Field. "I'm sick of it, man. It's depressing around here. A 3–0 ballgame, I give up one run and leave guys on base, it's like they expect us to mess up. And when we do, they chew us out. There is no positive, nothing around here for anybody." [2]

Marlins manager Jack McKeon called Burnett into his office and broke the news. Burnett shook his hand, gathered up his belongings, and left. Burnett has since apologized, saying:

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Because of his dismissal from the team, Burnett finished the season one inning short of receiving a $50,000 bonus for pitching 210 innings during the season; in addition, he was only two strikeouts shy of having his second 200-strikeout season of his career. After Burnett's contract with the Marlins expired, general manager Larry Beinfest did not attempt to resign him, which was unlikely to happen anyway, given Florida's financial constraints and the market for Burnett.

He threw the fastest fastball of all major league starters in 2005, averaging 95.6 miles per hour.[3]

Burnett had criticized McKeon for not allowing the team's less experienced players to have much playing time. Although probably not because of Burnett's comments, McKeon decided to let rookie Josh Johnson, a September call up from the Class AA Carolina Mudcats, make his first major league start of his career on September 30, 2005. Previously, Burnett was scheduled to make his last start of the year at that game.

Burnett declared free agency on October 27, the first day after the end of the 2005 World Series.

Toronto Blue Jays (2006–2008)Edit

File:A-j-burnett-may-22-2008.JPG

On the morning of December 6, 2005, at the Baseball Winter Meetings being held in Dallas, Texas, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Burnett to a five-year, $55 million deal.

The Toronto Blue Jays took a chance by signing Burnett to a five-year deal despite his being prone to injuries, and the 2006 season began with him going on the disabled list when a piece of scar tissue — remnants of his Tommy John surgery — broke off in his pitching arm. However, some baseball commentators like RotoWorld and Tim Dierkes still considered the signing worthwhile, since many of the other free agent pitchers that year, like Matt Morris and Paul Byrd had less impressive career stats, even though they had fewer health risks.[4]

He was activated on April 15, 2006 and made a start against the Chicago White Sox, giving up four runs in six innings of work. In his next start against the Boston Red Sox, Burnett was removed from the game after only four innings due to soreness in his right arm. He would end up on the disabled list again, this time for over two months. Burnett finished the 2006 year on a strong note however, finishing the season with a 10–8 record and a 3.98 ERA.

After opening the 2007 season with a very poor outing against the Detroit Tigers, lasting only 2.0 innings pitched and allowing five hits and six runs (27.00 ERA), Burnett settled down in his next four starts, finishing April 2–1, with an ERA of 4.18.

The Blue Jays experienced a number of injuries early, including losing All-Star closer B. J. Ryan for the season due to an elbow injury, and Opening Day starter Roy Halladay to appendectomy for four weeks. Burnett was the only pitcher to make all his starts through the first two months of the season. In that period, Burnett posted a 3.98 ERA, throwing 71.0 innings. Unfortunately, Burnett missed 48 games during two stints on the disabled list, finishing the 2007 season 10–8 with an ERA of 3.75.

Burnett's five-year contract with the Blue Jays allowed him to opt out at the end of the 2008 season. The season started off with frustration for Burnett due to a right index finger injury he suffered during the offseason, the nail of the index finger partially torn after it was caught in a closing car door.

Against Chicago White Sox pitcher Javier Vazquez in early September at U.S. Cellular Field, Burnett took a no-hitter into the 6th inning before giving up a hard hit that bounced off Scott Rolen's glove, but nevertheless got the win. Vazquez himself also pitched well, not giving up a hit until the 4th inning but ultimately took the loss.

On September 24, in his final start of the season (number 34), he pitched against the Yankees, lasting 8 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned), 7 hits and striking out 11, to finish off the season with an AL-leading 231 strikeouts. When he was relieved in the beginning of the 9th inning, he received a very long and memorable standing ovation and came out for a curtain call after being congratulated by the players. Despite his outing, he was awarded a no-decision, and the Jays lost 6–2 in extra innings.

Burnett finished the 2008 season with an 18–10 record and established career highs in almost every single pitching category. He set a career high with 18 wins, appeared in 35 games while starting 34 games, pitched 221 1/3 innings, and led the American league with 231 strikeouts. His 34 starts also led the AL, and he threw curveballs a higher percentage of the time than any other AL starter; 29.2%.[5]

New York Yankees (2009–present)Edit

On December 18, 2008, Burnett signed a five year $82.5 million contract with the New York Yankees.[6] On April 9, 2009, Burnett made his debut as a Yankee at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He pitched 5 1/3 innings , giving up seven hits, one walk, while striking out 6. He picked up his and the Yankees first win of the season. He pushed the Yankees record in the season to 1-2. During his second start Burnett went 6 innings of no-hit baseball before giving up 3 straight hits to tie the game. He ended up going 8 innings and getting the win to go 2-0 on the year. On May 12, Burnett made his return to Toronto, where he was loudly booed the entire game. He went up against Roy Halladay, his mentor during his time with the Jays. Halladay allowed 5 hits and pitched a complete game while Burnett allowed 7 hits and 5 runs in 7 innings of work. Burnett fell to 2-1 on the year as the Jays beat the Yankees 5-1. In Burnett's eleventh start against Texas at home, he threw 7 solid innings giving up 3 runs, a walk and striking out 8. During the 5th inning, after Mark Teixeira was beaned for the second time by opposing pitcher Vincente Padilla, Burnett threw over the head of Nelson Cruz. Although the umpire issued no warnings prior to the inning, Burnett was suspended by MLB for six games for the gesture, a punishment later reduced to five games on appeal and after the decision was widely mocked in the press (the opposing pitcher was not suspended at all).[7] In his next start against the Red Sox, Burnett lasted only 2.2 innings giving up 5 hits, 3 runs, walking 5 and striking out 1.[8] When asked about his performance, Burnett made the following statement, "I don't think there's an excuse for anything...it's just the fact that I didn't execute. I felt strong out there and I was out of whack, but who's to say that's because of the extra rest? I appreciate that, but I've still got to go out and do my job." [9] In his next and first start in the Subway Series against the Mets, Burnett reassured the Yankees that they made the right choice in signing him. Burnett cruised through 7 scoreless innings allowing 4 hits, 4 walks and striking out 8. He got the win, making him 2-1 in his last 3 starts.[10]

On June 20 in the 4th inning of the second of three against the Florida Marlins he pitched an immaculate inning, striking out all three batters in three pitches each. He became the 39th person to achieve this feat (three people have done it twice).

Burnett began a tradition of giving a whipped cream/shaving cream pie in the face to whoever won a game with a walk-off run batted in.[11] On November 4, 2009, after the final out of the 2009 World Series, Burnett pied Yankees manager Joe Girardi. On May 17, 2010, Marcus Thames hit the first walk-off of the Yankees' 2010 season, earning him a pie, he also received one later that year from Burnett after hitting a walkoff single in the tenth inning on July 4.

On June 27, Burnett pitched a 1-hit shutout against the subway rivals the New York Mets. His no-hitter was broken up in the bottom of the sixth.

On August 7, 2009, Burnett was a part of a memorable game against the Boston Red Sox. He and former Marlins teammate Josh Beckett endured a pitching duel that sparked the game to turn into a fifteen inning, five hour and thirty-three minute game. Beckett threw seven shutout innings, Burnett threw seven and two thirds. Burnett surrendered six walks, and left to a very loud ovation, in which he tipped his cap to the crowd. The Yankees eventually won the game in the bottom of the 15th with two outs, when Alex Rodriguez hit a walk-off two run home run against new Red Sox pitcher, Junichi Tazawa, who was making his major league debut.

On October 9, 2009, Burnett made his postseason debut in a win against the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series, in which he earned a no-decision. On October 17, he pitched a no-decision in Game 2 of an American League Championship Series win against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Burnett made his first ever World Series start in Game 2 against the Philadelphia Phillies on October 29, and earned his first career post season win by pitching seven innings, recording nine strike-outs and allowing only one run. However, in Game 5, he set a dubious record when he hit Shane Victorino in the first inning, his fifth hit batter of the 2009 postseason.

Burnett started off the 2010 season strong gaining a record of 6-2 through the end of May. However, during the time Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland took a leave of absence for a few weeks, Burnett's numbers plummeted in June where he went winless. Burnett broke his winless streak upon Eiland's return, but lost again to the Tampa Bay Rays in his first start since the end of the All-Star break, a game where he injured his hand after punching a door out of frustration. He finished the season with a 10-15 record and an era over 5.[12]

Pitching styleEdit

Burnett is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, relying on the combination of his fastball and curveball. His four-seam fastball possesses tailing movement and resides in the 93-97 mph range, while his curveball is in the low 80s. His velocity has slightly diminished in recent years after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2003.

Recently, Burnett has modified his curveball delivery from over-the-top to more of a three-quarter sidearm delivery, thus adding velocity as well as increasing the sharp movement of the pitch. He is also known for throwing the knucklecurve. Burnett also throws a change-up, but it is seldom used. He also uses the sinker sometimes to get the count going. However, while with the Blue Jays he worked to improve his change-up with the help of pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and had demonstrated some moderate success with the pitch.

Sports analysts have often cited his curveball as the best in baseball. He uses it often when ahead in the count, but he can also drop it over the plate for a called strike very effectively. Because he is a two-pitch pitcher, he will often use more breaking balls early in the count the second time through the order. However, this can also make Burnett either very hittable or virtually unhittable. Because his pitches are so erratic, Burnett is known for his wild pitches and his high walk total.

AccomplishmentsEdit

  • Led American League with 231 strikeouts (2008)
  • Led National League in shutouts (five, 2002)
  • Pitched a 3–0 no-hitter against the San Diego Padres (at Qualcomm Stadium, on May 12, 2001). He walked 9 batters in this game.
  • Matched his own franchise single-game record by striking out 14 batters in a July 6, 2005, 12-inning 5–4 win against the Milwaukee Brewers, in which the Marlins struck out a team record 22 batters and retired 28 straight batters.
  • Second all-time on the Florida Marlins' win list with 49 (behind Dontrelle Willis), first all-time with complete games (14), shutouts (8), and strikeouts (753)
  • With 38 wins between the two in 2008, Burnett (18–10) and Roy Halladay (20–11) set a new franchise record for most wins in a season by a duo, beating out the 37 wins between Jack Morris and Juan Guzmán in the 1992 season.

Personal lifeEdit

Burnett graduated from Central Arkansas Christian Schools.[13] His off-season home is in Monkton, Maryland.[14] He has many tattoos, including an Aztec symbol that can be seen on his right leg in a Blue Jays commercial and an image of Bruce Lee on his triceps,[15] the Pisces glyph on his left hand is in honor of his children who both are Pisces,[16] and used to wear nipple rings.[17]

He and his wife Karen[18] have two children, Ashton and A. J. Jr. In December 2010, it was reported on ESPN that Burnett and his wife were divorcing. Burnett denied the report.[19]

He was recently diagnosed with Gilbert's syndrome, a rare but benign genetic defect in liver in which bilirubin conjugation ability may lead to mild jaundice under certain conditions.Template:Citation needed


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