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Girardi to use backup backstop for Burnett

Girardi to use backup backstop for Burnett

NEW YORK -- Preferring to take risks with their lineup rather than their pitching staff, the Yankees have decided to start Jose Molina instead of Jorge Posada at catcher for A.J. Burnett's first postseason outing.

"You know what? I just hope we win that game," Posada said. "That's all I've got to say."

Posada's struggles catching Burnett this season have been well documented, and the effect has been tangible. Opposing batters hit .270 off Burnett in his 16 starts that Posada caught, and just .221 in 11 starts with Molina.

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As a result, Molina has caught Burnett's past six starts dating back to Sept. 7. The battery will make it seven straight when Burnett starts Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Twins on Friday evening.

"When a pitcher and a catcher get in a rhythm, you hate to break it up," manager Joe Girardi said. "And that's kind of the feeling that we have going now. Jorge is our No. 1 catcher. But in this situation, we just are going to choose to catch Molina."

"It's not like I didn't see it coming," Posada said of the decision, which he learned from Girardi on Sunday.

From an offensive standpoint, though, starting Molina over Posada is a risk. At 38, Posada remains one of the game's more feared power hitters, with a .285 average and 22 home runs in 383 at-bats this season.

Molina, meanwhile, boasts nothing more than a backup catcher's skill set, with a .217 average and one home run.

Division Series
Gm. 1NYY 7, MIN 2WrapVideo
Gm. 2NYY 4, MIN 3 (11)WrapVideo
Gm. 3NYY 4, MIN 1WrapVideo

If the Yankees keep Posada in the lineup by starting him at designated hitter, they will lose some thump by leaving regular DH Hideki Matsui -- he of 28 homers and 90 RBIs -- on the bench. Though Girardi would not announce his Game 2 designated hitter, he did say that Matsui is more likely to man the role. Given that there is an off-day between Games 1 and 2, and given that neither the Twins aren't likely to start a left-handed pitcher in Game 2, it is unlikely that Matsui will sit.

"I don't know who we will match up against," Girardi said. "But our plans are Matsui is probably going to be our DH most of the time."

The tension between Burnett and Posada bubbled over after a game at Fenway Park in August, in which Burnett served up three homers and allowed nine earned runs against the Red Sox. Throughout the game, Burnett appeared exasperated with Posada, and afterward, the two shared differing accounts what unfolded.

Burnett blamed no one but himself. But Posada revealed that the two were rarely in sync.

"I tried to get on the same page as him," Posada said that day. "At times we were, and then we weren't a lot of times. It's frustrating, because, obviously, he wants to throw a certain pitch and I want to throw another one. When they're hitting like that, it's tough to get on the same page."

Things never got better for the pair, prompting Girardi to lean on Molina down the stretch. Almost instantly, the success began to come.

"They've been in a real good rhythm when they've been working together," Girardi said. "And we just felt we would keep it that way. Playoffs are a lot about pitching, and we just thought since they're in a good rhythm, we're going to keep them working together."

Asked why he thought pitchers enjoyed throwing to him, Molina -- who filled in admirably last season after Posada underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in July -- simply shrugged.

"Big target?" Molina joked. "I really have no idea. I just call the game the way the reports say what hitters like to do. Plus, I like to talk to the pitchers a lot. Maybe that's what they like."

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

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