Burnett to face former team, mentor

Burnett to face former team, mentor

BALTIMORE -- A.J. Burnett has consistently credited Roy Halladay with being one of the most influential people in his baseball life, having changed the course of his career over their three years as teammates with the Blue Jays.

But when they prepared to separate last winter with Burnett headed toward a new beginning in New York, the right-hander was surprised to hear just how much he had influenced the Toronto ace.

"It's funny, because when we parted ways, I told him, 'Thanks for everything. You've been a huge influence,'" Burnett said. "And he said, 'Thanks. I learned a lot from you, too.' I kind of laughed -- 'What did you learn from me, dude?'"

Halladay said that he figured out to be less of a workaholic -- or, in Burnett's description, "an animal, five days a week." The former teammates will get a chance to reprise their competitive friendship on Tuesday at the Rogers Center, going head-to-head in the opener of a three-game series.

"It goes both ways," Burnett said. "We had a great relationship and I always wish him the best, except for Tuesday. He's going to be focused and so am I. Hopefully we match up pretty good. He's hoping to keep his team in the game and I plan on doing the same."

It will mark Burnett's first start at the Rogers Centre since Sept. 24, when he limited the Yankees to one earned run in eight innings, doffing his cap as he walked off the field and appearing nothing like a person who intended to hang around town.

As expected, Burnett opted out of his contract after the season and inked a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees in December. He said that he never checked out the schedule to see how the rotation would fall.

"I knew there'd be a time in five years that I'd get there eventually, but I never expected that I'd match up against [Halladay] the first day back," Burnett said.

Burnett said that he is thankful for his three years in Toronto, where he was 38-26 with a 3.94 ERA in 81 games (80 starts), including leading the American League with 231 strikeouts last year.

"I went there for a reason," Burnett said. "It was only for three years, but I believe that reason was to be around a man like Roy Halladay. You see someone out there that's great and gets better every time. That kind of opens your eyes a little bit.

"The main thing I gathered from him is preparation and focus. I never really watched videos or paid that much attention until I got around him. He's locked into every game when he's not pitching. I try to do that when I'm not pitching also."

Burnett said he swapped text messages with Vernon Wells a few weeks back and keeps in regular contact with Halladay, firing off texts after each one of his starts. But Burnett made sure to note that this will not be a social visit, saying that he rebuffed an invitation to get chummy during the off-day on Monday.

"They were wondering if I wanted to go to dinner," Burnett said. "I was like, 'No, I don't think so, guys. You're not going to butter me up before a game.'"

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP A.J. Burnett (2-0, 5.26 ERA)
Burnett is coming off Wednesday night's no-decision to Tampa Bay, in which the right-hander allowed three runs over six innings. While not his best performance, Burnett did strike out eight Rays and was optimistic in his performance going forward. He has made only one career start vs. the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, in 2001 for the Marlins, and was 21-8 with a 3.87 ERA in 39 appearances at Rogers Centre with Toronto.

TOR: RHP Roy Halladay (6-1, 3.29 ERA)
Toronto's ace was dominating in his last effort, reeling off eight strong innings in a road victory over the Angels on Wednesday. Halladay blanked Los Angeles for seven frames before allowing one run. The right-hander scattered six hits and ended with six strikeouts, two walks and 13 outs induced via ground balls. Halladay has six wins in seven starts, marking the fastest he has reached that many victories in a season in his career. In 32 games against New York in his career, Halladay has gone 15-5 with a 2.86 ERA. He went 5-1 with a 2.40 ERA against the Yankees last season.

Tidbits
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that right-hander Chien-Ming Wang will make a rehab start on Tuesday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, after which he will be considered to rejoin the big league team. ... Brett Tomko became the 19th pitcher used by the Yankees this year, tops among all big league teams. ... Johnny Damon has hit safely in seven straight games with 15 RBIs.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
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•  Official game notes

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Up next
• Wednesday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 2-1, 4.38) at Blue Jays (Scott Richmond, 4-1, 3.29), 7:07 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Yankees (CC Sabathia, 2-3, 3.94) at Blue Jays (Brian Tallet, 2-1, 4.95), 7:07 p.m. ET
• Friday: Yankees (Phil Hughes, 1-2, 8.49) vs. Twins (Francisco Liriano, 2-4, 5.75), 7:05 p.m. ET

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.