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Allan James "A.J." Burnett (born January 3, 1977 in North Little Rock, Arkansas) is a former right-handed starting pitcher. Previously, he played for the Florida Marlins, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates. He was drafted by New York Mets in 8th Round with the 217th overall pick of 1995 MLB Draft.
On May 12, 2001, Burnett recorded a no-hitter in a complete game shut-out against the San Diego Padres in his second start of the season. He shut down the Padres with the 3-0 victory even after issuing nine walks, helping his own cause by striking out seven Padres hitters. 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.
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. 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 a no-hitter but walked nine batters, which was a very unusual baseball feat. The 2002 season was his best to date, he complemented a 12-9 record with an ERA of 3.30 and a career-best 203 strikeouts. 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 100 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. Like former teammate Carl Pavano did 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.
- "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."
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:
- "I have always been a very passionate player and person. I often wear my emotions on my sleeve, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. I hope that my teammates always respect that of me, as I trust they know my commitment to winning. For those I've offended, I offer my most sincere apologies."
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 didn't attempt to resign him, which was unlikely to happen anyway, given Florida's financial constraints and the market for Burnett.
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.
The Toronto Blue Jays took a bit of a chance by signing Burnett to a five-year deal due to his inability to stay healthy, 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.
He was activated on April 15 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 year on a strong note however, finishing the season with a 10-8 record and a 3.98 ERA.
After opening the season with a devastating loss to the Detroit Tigers (2.0 innings pitched, five hits, 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 rock of the rotation, the only pitcher to make all his starts through the first two months of the season. In that frame, Burnett posted a 3.98 ERA, throwing 71.0 innings. Unfortunately, Burnett missed 48 games during two stints on the disabled list, finishing the season 10-8 with an ERA of 3.75.
The 2008 is a crucial season for Burnett as the five-year contract that he has with the Blue Jays allows him to opt out at the end of the season. If he wants to test the open market and secure another big contract, Burnett needs to stay healthy and have a productive year. However, the season started off with frustrations for Burnett due to a right index finger injury he suffered during the offseason, the nail of the index finger was partially torn after it was caught in a closing car door. The torn nail prevented Burnett from throwing the spiked curve, which requires him to dig the tip of his finger into the seam of the baseball.
The finger injury may have contributed to Burnett's early season woes as he was off to a slow start. The statistics were uncharacteristic of Burnett, especially the high earned run average and the few strikeouts that he had collected with the lack of his spiked curveball.
On July 3, It was reported that the Blue Jays were shopping Burnett to potential suitors looking for a shortstop in return. However, Burnett's inconsistent 2008 season has been seen as a concern for potential suitors. But since his outing against the Orioles on July 9th, Burnett had recorded 4 consecutive quality starts while posting a 3-1 record. His most noticeable start was in Yankee stadium on July the 13th when he stifled the Yankees for 8 and 1/3 innings while only giving up 1 run prior to the All-Star break. It was rumored to be Burnett's last start as a member of the Blue Jays with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching.
Burnett is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, relying on the combination fastball and curveball. His four-seam fastball resides in the 95-98MPH range while his sinker is in the low 90s. His velocity had slightly diminished in recent years, prior to undergoing the Tommy John surgery in 2003, Burnett's fastball had been clocked over 100mph frequently. It makes Burnett effective in the sense that hitters must gear up and cheat on the fastball in order to make contact which in turn help set up Burnett's curveball, one of the few spiked curveballs in the league is also his strikeout pitch. Burnet's spiked curveball has excellent velocity and late break, as it somewhat resembles a slider. Its velocity is in the low 80s, by far the hardest curveball in all of Major League Baseball. Burnett also possesses a change-up but is seldom used. However, since joining the Blue Jays he had worked to improve his change-up with the help of pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and has demonstrated some moderate success with the pitch. Burnett is a pure strikeout pitcher, but his two-seam fastball also allows him to induce quick ground-ball outs which help reduce his pitch-count. The only concern revolving around Burnett is his longevity, his annual trip to the disabled list forbade him from demonstrating his full potential on a yearly basis.
- Led National League in shutouts (five, 2002)
- Pitched a 3-0 no-hitter against the San Diego Padres (at Jack Murphy 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)
- Won a World Series in 2009 with the New York Yankees winning game 2 for them.
- Was an All-Star in 2015, his final season.
- Burnett plays in a rock band called Mad Ink with former Marlins teammate Tim Spooneybarger. The group is so named because Burnett and Spooneybarger both sport many tattos.
- A.J. uses a solid black baseball bat, and several of his bats have been customized as "Ozzy Osbourne" and "Marilyn Manson" models. The names of these rock singers are professionally etched in the barrels of the bats. His song when he comes out to pitch is, "The Beautiful People," by Marilyn Manson.
- Burnett bought the Toronto home of former Raptors player Vince Carter for $2.8 million, $700k less than the asking price.
May 12, 2001
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