Burnett works to make changeup viable

Burnett works to make changeup viable

TAMPA, Fla. -- It seems to happen every spring around this time: A.J. Burnett begins having fantasies about finally incorporating his changeup as a go-to pitch and adding another weapon to his mound arsenal.

The changeup is a subject that Burnett has chatted about in previous years, even filling up notebooks on slow days for scribes around Blue Jays camp. But this time, Burnett said he's serious about the idea, even suggesting a new entry for the scouting reports that circulate around baseball.

"Has one, never threw it, but he might," Burnett said.

Burnett will have his chance to continue improving his offspeed offerings -- and, just as importantly, practice his fastball command -- as he and catcher Jorge Posada continue to get more familiar with each other this spring. Their next assignment comes against the Blue Jays in a 1:05 p.m. ET home game on Saturday being televised on MLB.TV.

"All winter, I really harped on it," Burnett said. "Watching CC [Sabathia] throw last year, being a power guy and how much he uses it, it just kind of opened my eyes a little bit. Why not work on something, you know?

"It's going to be a big pitch. I think as Jorgie and I talk more, we'll figure out when to use it and not use it. It's going to be key, especially those days when the hook isn't working. It gives me a second pitch."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that adding pitches is something that pitching coach Dave Eiland talks about with everyone on the staff, but refining a pitch that Burnett said he used "very occasionally" could be an asset -- especially against familiar American League East opponents.

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"I think the more pitches that you have and the more weapons that you have, when you're going through the [lineup] the second, third and fourth times, it becomes important they're getting a different look," Girardi said.

"You can give them three different looks in three different at-bats, in a sense. I think it's really important, and we've encouraged him to work on it."

Burnett said that he will probably go only fastball-changeup in his first Grapefruit League start, on Saturday against the Blue Jays, a team that should be very familiar with how Burnett operates.

It wasn't so long ago that Burnett was tipping his cap to the Rogers Centre crowd in his final start of 2008, shortly before signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees as a free agent.

There is less focus on Burnett taking on his former Toronto team now, one season after he went 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 33 starts for New York -- plus five more starts and a World Series win in the postseason.

But maybe Burnett will be able to offer a different look and pull the changeup string a few times for his old 'mates.

"They all know I have one now, so maybe I'll start using it," Burnett said.

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