Burnett loses, says he'll probably retire after season

Burnett loses, says he'll probably retire after season

August 20, 2014, 12:15 am

Though he could earn more than $12 million pitching for the Phillies next season, A.J. Burnett said he would "probably" retire at the end of the season. (AP)

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A.J. Burnett’s major league-leading walks total wasn’t the only number that rose in the Phillies’ 5-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay).

With his 27th start of the season, Burnett passed a plateau that took his contract from $8.5 million to $10 million if he decides to pitch next season.

The value of that contract will swell to $12.75 when Burnett reaches 32 starts. He is on pace for 34.

The ball is completely in Burnett’s court -- or should we say wallet? -- because his deal is a player option. If the 37-year-old right-hander comes back for a 17th season, he gets the money. If he packs his baseball memories in a duffel bag and takes it to the house, he doesn’t get the money.

So, is Burnett going to pitch next season?

“I have no idea,” the pitcher said after taking the loss Tuesday night. “Probably not. But we’ll see.”

For some folks would walk to spring training to come back for $10 million, but Burnett has already made over $135 million in his career. He strongly considered retirement last winter only to be convinced to continue pitching by a $16 million offer from the Phillies on the eve of spring training.

The wisdom of that expenditure now has to be seriously questioned. The Phillies, long on a road to nowhere, have not been better than a fourth-place team since April and Burnett has been inconsistent for much of the season.

On Tuesday night, he went deep into the game but allowed five mostly self-inflicted runs over 7 2/3 innings. He gave his team a handful of solid innings, but in the end the Phillies' offense could not overcome a couple of bouts of wildness by Burnett. Seattle pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma had a lot to do with the Phillies' problems on offense. The guy was brilliant over eight scoreless innings.

Burnett’s first eight pitches of the game were balls. Both of those walks ended up as Mariners’ runs as the Phils fell behind 2-0 in the first inning.

Burnett allowed a solo homer to Kyle Seager on a 3-0 pitch in the sixth inning. In the eighth, he walked his fourth batter and hit another. Both of those baserunners scored. So, four of the Mariners’ five runs came on free passes.

“He just wasn’t in the strike zone right from the bullpen,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “His stuff is still good. His breaking pitch and velocity is good. It’s just more of an execution thing and getting ahead of hitters.”

Burnett is 6-14 with a 4.42 ERA on the season. He leads the majors with 76 walks.

He has now lost five straight starts dating to July 28. His ERA in that span is 7.51.

“It’s been a rough stretch, but I still come in and try to do my job,” Burnett said.

Burnett has not missed a start despite pitching with a hernia for most of the season. He said the issue has not impacted his pitching. Sandberg added that Burnett has not complained about the condition at all.

While Burnett’s control was an issue, Iwakuma’s was not. He did not walk a batter over his eight innings. He struck out 11. The Japanese import has racked up 17 2/3 straight scoreless innings. He has not given up a run in three career starts (22 innings) in National League parks.

“He’s a pitcher we had not seen,” Sandberg said. “He was really a master at changing speeds. He threw his curveball at three different speeds. It was hard to get a gauge on him.”

That’s not the first time that’s been said this season.

For the game, Phillies hitters struck out 13 times. The Phils were on their way to being shut out for the 14th time this season (San Diego leads the majors with 16 shutouts) when Seattle’s bullpen gummed up the works and allowed a couple of runs with two outs in the ninth inning. Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon was forced to bring in closer Fernando Rodney for the save. He struck out Cody Asche, the potential tying run, with two men on base to end the game.

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