Big League Stew - MLB

MINNEAPOLIS — Even if he was crying on the inside, A.J. Burnett(notes) put on a brave face after being told by manager Joe Girardi that the New York Yankees would not need him to start in the ALDS.

Burnett's disappointment was evident; after pitching so well in Game 2 of the World Series last year, this has been a long and miserable season for him personally.

But he didn't act with surprise or bitterness at being left out of the Yankees rotation. Rather than complain or blame others for his predicament (looking at you Jorge Posada), Burnett responded with humility.

"I'm not going to be the guy, either, to cause drama, be the bad apple or be the cancer," Burnett said Tuesday. "I'm here for the same reason everybody else is here."

Burnett, who still has three years to go on an $82 million contract, is simply relieved the Yankees kept him on the roster, period, after he finished the season with a 5.26 ERA in 33 starts.

"They didn't have to bring me here," Burnett said. "I understand everything. They still believe enough in me to keep me here in the bullpen. I'm going to take it in stride."

The Yankees are going with CC Sabathia(notes), Andy Pettitte(notes) and Phil Hughes(notes) in a best-of-five series against the Minnesota Twins. Burnett might be used in long relief. He might be used to get one batter out. He might not be used at all.

"Whether it's one out, two outs, run and bunt — whatever — I'm in," Burnett said with a chuckle. "... I'll be down there and I'll be ready. And if I don't get the call, I don't get the call. I'll wait until the next series. As a team, we have one goal and, like I've said, anything I can do to help that out, I'm all in."

Burnett added that Girardi didn't dangle a carrot about him returning to the rotation for the next round, when the team might want to add another starter. Burnett hasn't shown enough to warrant any kind of promises.

"I never really took that huge step to turn it around. I took some baby steps here and there," Burnett said.

It was not all that surprising to hear Burnett talk that way. And yet, in this day and age, it was refreshing anyway.

Insurance against catastrophic injury to and/or meltdown by Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes is all Burnett is worth right now.

So, bash him all you want for his performance (I have). Give him the business for being so well-paid and so inconsistent/bad on the mound. His biggest contributions to the Yankees season, so far, have come in his duties as their Dean of the Postgame Face Pie. It's been embarrassing, really.

But, in a day where fans brace themselves for selfish and petulant reactions from athletes, Burnett set a professional example for others to follow.

Just for that, I'll be rooting for him to turn his career around.

Maybe it starts this week.

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Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave

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