Burnett struggles, but Yankees win

March 29, 2009 4:06:24 PM PDT
A.J. Burnett and Zach Duke had both sparkled in spring training. The hitters finally figured them out Sunday. Burnett, one of two key free-agent pitchers signed by the Yankees during the offseason, allowed seven runs and 10 hits over 4 1-3 innings in New York's 9-8 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The right-hander had given up two runs and seven hits in his previous 15 innings.

"A lot of balls over the plate. A lot of spots missed," Burnett said. "It's just a mechanical thing. Go side-to-side instead of staying on top. That we'll fix."

Duke gave up eight runs and nine hits in 3 1-3 innings. The left-hander, part of a Pirates rotation that includes opening-day starter Paul Maholm, Ian Snell and Ross Ohlendorf, had allowed just four runs over 19 2-3 innings in six earlier outings.

"Obviously, the numbers aren't real good today," Duke said. "It was a battle every at-bat. The main thing is I got my work in and nothing's hurt. Wipe this one out of the memory."

New York general manager Brian Cashman said injured third baseman Alex Rodriguez could be ready to move his rehab program from Vail, Colo., to the Yankees' spring training complex during the first week of April.

A-Rod, expected to be out until May, had right hip surgery in Colorado on March 9.

After the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced that Brett Gardner beat out Melky Cabrera for the starting center-field job. Girardi said the team was planning to have Cabrera on the opening-day roster in a backup role.

Robinson Cano started the Yankees' seven-run fourth with a solo homer off Duke. Derek Jeter had a sacrifice fly, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui hit RBI singles, and Nick Swisher had a run-scoring double as New York sent 12 batters to the plate.

Ryan Doumit - a three-run shot - and Adam LaRoche - a solo drive - hit back-to-back homers against Burnett during a sixth-run fifth that tied it at 8.

Jeter started at shortstop, one day after bruising a knuckle on his left pinkie. He had one hit in three at-bats. The Yankees captain was hurt during a collision at first base in the first inning of Saturday's game against Atlanta, but remained in the game and got two additional at-bats.

Eric Hinske added a solo homer for the Pirates.

Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson missed his second straight game after fouling a ball off his left knee during a minor league contest Friday. The injury is not considered serious.

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera allowed a leadoff bloop single to center by Nyjer Morgan in the sixth, then struck out the next three batters. The right-hander has given up two hits and struck out 10 in six shutout innings overall.

Notes: The Yankees dedicated a 9-11 memorial outside George M. Steinbrenner Field before the game. Steel from the World Trade Center was used in its construction. Retired New York firefighter Joe Holland, whose son Joseph was killed in the north tower, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Pirates GM Neal Huntington confirmed that Wilson and his agent are interested in trying to work out a contract extension. Wilson's current deal ends after this season, but the Pirates hold an option for 2010. ... Yankees LHP Phil Coke struck out four in two scoreless innings. ... Andy Phillips, a candidate for a utility role with the Pirates, played first base and went 0-for-1. It was his first Grapefruit League game since being sidelined March 7 by back soreness.


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