SARASOTA, Fla — In the temporary absence of Cole Hamels, the Phillies' one-year, $16 million signing of A.J. Burnett looks like it might have been a shrewd move.
“We just have to hold the fort down as best we can until [Hamels] gets back,” Burnett said Friday. “That’s our job.”
But against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday afternoon, in Burnett’s second outing as a Phillie, he was hammered for six runs on seven hits in three innings, leading to another Phillies failure, a sloppy 15-4 rout — their eighth setback against only one win, plus a tie, this spring.
“Hopefully, this was just a throw-away type of game,” manager Ryne Sandberg said.
“We’ve got some work to do. We’ve got a chance to tighten up the squad and fine-tune some things down the road. We haven’t been able to play nine innings of baseball through without giving them some extra outs or seeing them put up a crooked number.”
Burnett served up a two-run homer to the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty in the second inning, then allowed Baltimore to bat around in the third when it sent 10 men to the plate and scored four times on four singles, two hit batsmen and a walk.
“I’ve been doing this for a while,” Burnett said. “It ain’t the first time I’ve given up six in the spring and it won’t be the last.
“It was not a setback. It’s just a step. I want perfection, I want good results, but you have to check yourself. I know it’s spring training. The more times you go out there, the more comfortable you get. I put myself in good position to put guys away. I just didn’t do it."
“It wasn’t pretty,” Sandberg added. “Too many outs in the third inning.
“Burnett showed his stuff. He got his work in. But he was a little erratic.”
Two years ago, Burnett won 16 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2008, he won 18 with Toronto. He has won at least 10 games for nine years in a row and made at least 30 starts in six consecutive seasons.
Burnett certainly has the track record to suggest he could be the guy to temporarily assume Hamels' role in the Phillies' starting rotation. He has won 147 games and lost 132 in his 15-year big-league career with the Marlins, Blue Jays, Yankees and Pirates. He has a 3.99 career ERA.
Hamels is 99-74 with a 3.38 ERA in eight seasons with the Phillies.
No general manager would ever think of trading the 30-year-old Hamels for the 37-year-old Burnett.
But in a pinch, Burnett could turn out to be a viable replacement.