With Burnett gone to the Bronx and an unheralded group of starters pitching behind Halladay, the Blue Jays now surprisingly find themselves atop the AL East.
The New York Yankees, meanwhile, will simply be looking to climb back to .500 when Burnett makes his first start against his former team Tuesday night in Toronto, where Halladay will also be on the hill when the clubs open a three-game set.
The two right-handers combined to win 90 games over the past three years for the Blue Jays, but an inconsistent offense and an ultra-competitive division kept Toronto out of the postseason despite three straight winning seasons.
After going 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 2008, Burnett opted out of his contract and signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees - a move unlikely to make him very popular at Rogers Centre on Tuesday.
“Of course, money had something to do with it,” Burnett said after signing. “How often do you get the chance to put on pinstripes? I mean, whether you want to admit that you love them or hate them, everybody wants to be a Yankee.”
There doesn’t appear to be any bad blood between Burnett and Halladay. Burnett said one of the reasons he originally signed with Toronto was to learn from the former Cy Young award winner.
“It’s funny, because when we parted ways, I told him, ‘Thanks for everything. You’ve been a huge influence,’” Burnett told the Yankees’ official Web site. “And he said, ‘Thanks. I learned a lot from you, too.’ I kind of laughed - ‘What did you learn from me, dude?’”
Nine different pitchers have started at least two games for Toronto (22-12) already, but the Blue Jays have a respectable 4.11 ERA. Halladay (6-1, 3.29) remains the anchor, and he allowed one run in eight innings of Wednesday’s 13-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
“We’ve always felt like we’ve had the talent,” Halladay said. “Over the course of the years, individual guys (on offense) have put up good numbers. We haven’t been able to get everybody going at the same time.”
This season, Aaron Hill(notes) is hitting .353 and Adam Lind(notes) has a team-high 31 RBIs. Alex Rios(notes) homered and drove in three runs in Sunday’s 5-0 win at Oakland, as rookie Brett Cecil(notes) earned his first major league victory with eight impressive innings.
The Blue Jays still have something to prove despite the AL’s best record, as they’ve yet to face any of the AL East’s presumptive top contenders. A three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles has been their only action within the division.
Meanwhile, the Yankees (15-16) haven’t looked like a playoff team so far. They snapped a five-game losing streak by taking two of three at Baltimore over the weekend, rallying for a 5-3 win Sunday thanks in part to Johnny Damon’s(notes) three-run homer in the seventh inning.
New York is hoping to shake its early struggles with Alex Rodriguez(notes) back in the lineup. Coming off a hip injury and a maelstrom surrounding his admitted past steroid use, Rodriguez homered on his first swing of the season Friday, but went 1 for 10 the rest of the series.
It likely won’t get any easier against Halladay, who won his last five starts versus the Yankees last season to move to 15-5 with a 2.86 ERA in his career against them. In three home starts last year versus New York, Halladay was 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA and two complete games.