Commentary

Yanks' other starters have been great

With Vazquez in spotlight, Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte and Hughes have gone overlooked

Updated: May 5, 2010, 11:20 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

AJ BurnettMike Stobe/Getty ImagesA.J. Burnett has posted a 4-0 record and a 1.99 ERA for the Yankees this season.

NEW YORK -- It's only natural to focus on the negative. In fact, it's the nature of news.

That's why you'll never read a story about how every plane landed safely at LaGuardia Airport on a particular day.

Hence, all the stories lately have been about what starter Javier Vazquez hasn't done.

In reality, the story is more about what the other four guys in the rotation have done -- just about everything right.

On Tuesday night, it was A.J. Burnett flexing his muscles in the Yankees' 4-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles before a crowd of 43,260 at Yankee Stadium.

Burnett pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing one run (unearned) on five hits. He walked two and struck out eight. Burnett, in his second season in pinstripes, is 4-0 with a stingy 1.99 ERA.

"He's really locked in," said manager Joe Girardi about Burnett, who has not allowed an earned run in his last 19 innings of work. "I think probably experiences have helped him, some of the things he went through last year."

Dobbs They've pitched probably as well as you can pitch. It's been great to see.

-- Yankees manager Joe Girardi
on his other four starters

Burnett isn't the only one on the starting staff that has been light outs through the first five weeks of the season. There are Cy Young candidates almost everywhere you look on this roster. CC Sabathia is 4-1 with a 2.74 ERA. Andy Pettitte, who will start Wednesday afternoon against the O's in the finale, is 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA. And Phil Hughes is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA.

Those eye-popping numbers should be the talk of the town. Those four starters should be the reason Yankees fans should feel good that their team, indeed, has a chance to repeat as champions.

"They've competed at a very high level," Girardi said. "They've gotten us to the eighth and seventh innings multiple times.

"They've pitched probably as well as you can pitch. It's been great to see."

This isn't the same Burnett who struggled at the start of last season. He won just two of his first nine starts. There were a lot of inconsistent starts where people wondered if the Yankees might have made a mistake signing him away from the Toronto Blue Jays.

This Burnett, however, has been a different animal. He's been downright dominant and nasty. Ask the O's, who thought they had something brewing in the third inning. After scoring a run on a Burnett throwing error, the Orioles had runners on second and third and nobody out.

Enter vintage Burnett. Three up, three down. All three were strikeout victims.

Burnett had his curveball working. "I finally found it tonight," he said. "I kept saying to myself that they weren't going to score. I had to make a pitch, one at a time. Before you know it, I was out of it. That was a big inning to get out of it."

Burnett's gem followed Sabathia's eight strong innings Monday night. Sabathia's outing following Hughes' wonderful seven innings Sunday.

"We're just trying to pass the torch," Burnett said. "We want to keep these guys in it.

"We all believe in ourselves. We also have confidence in this team."

The scary part is that if Vazquez (1-3 with a chubby 9.78 ERA) can get straightened out, the Yankees will almost be impossible to beat with any consistency. Better yet, in October. To start the season, they've won seven of their first eight series.

Some were starting to worry that the Yankees (18-8) might be in trouble. After all, the injuries have been piling up. Curtis Granderson is out a month with a groin strain. Jorge Posada has a mildly strained right calf. Alex Rodriguez sat out a game with a sore knee. Mariano Rivera has stiffness in his side.

Relax, don't worry.

That's how good the Yankees' pitching has been. Sure, the rotation hasn't been perfect. Then again, no one's ever is. Still, the position players have the right to believe in their entire staff over the long haul.

"They give us a chance to win ballgames," left fielder Marcus Thames said. "That's what they set out to do.

"Javier will come around. He's pitched well in the past. He's got good stuff and hopefully, it will turn around for him."

You can focus on Vazquez all you want. With the rest of the rotation getting the job done, it's just silly.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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