LOS ANGELES -- The Yankees skipped Phil Hughes' start this time around in deference to his innings-pitched count, but it was A.J. Burnett who again pitched like the guy who really needs to be skipped.
Turning in his fifth consecutive clunker in Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Dodgers, Burnett again was wild, looked lost and was working on mysteries without any clues.
Burnett now has lost five consecutive starts for the first time since 2005, when he was still pitching for Florida.
How difficult is that to do for the Yankees?
Very, it would seem. The Yankees rank second in the American League in runs scored.
"I'm pretty upset," Burnett said in response to a question about how calm he seems in the midst of his worst slump in years. "I'm pretty upset. But the guys in this clubhouse, they don't let you act that way.
"I've had a handful of guys talking to me."
Burnett, 33, has been high-maintenance throughout his career. Last season, Jose Molina evolved into his personal catcher. Molina no longer is around. And his current slide, coincidence or not, started about the same time pitching coach Dave Eiland took a leave of absence for personal reasons.
In the interim, bullpen coach -- and former pitcher -- Mike Harkey is acting as pitching coach.
"Everybody misses Dave here," Burnett said. "But I pitched 10 years without Dave also.
"We're not putting things on nobody but No. 34."
Which, of course, is Burnett's number.
"You look at everything and say, yeah, it could be," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Eiland's absence. "But A.J. knows what he has to do. He understands what he has to do.
"It's hard to pinpoint why. But he has to correct it and he has to work through it."
Over his past five starts, Burnett now has allowed 29 earned runs and nine homers. His ERA during that span is 11.35. On Saturday, 12 of 20 Dodgers Burnett faced reached base.
"Let's not forget that this game is not easy," Girardi said. "I've said all along that he's going to get out of this, and he will."
Last time out, Monday in Arizona, Burnett became the first Yankee to surrender three first-inning homers in a game since Ron Guidry in 1987.
Saturday in Los Angeles, the Dodgers scorched Burnett for two runs and three hits in the first, immediately vaulting them back into the game after the Yanks had scored three in the top of the first. But it was the third inning, when Burnett surrendered four walks (one intentional) and a couple of hits, that really cost him.
Burnett, who walked six (one intentionally) and has walked 17 hitters over his past 23 innings, said he had an "unbelievable" warm-up pre-game and that "the results were terrible but I felt a little better, believe it or not."
Burnett went through a rough time last August with the Yankees, going 0-4 with a 6.03 ERA in six starts, before pulling it together again in September (3-1, 3.83).
Difference now is, Eiland isn't around (and neither is Molina).
Still, Girardi said his inclination is to not skip Burnett's next start, scheduled for Friday at home against Toronto.
"We're 10 minutes after the game, but my thought is not to skip him," Girardi said. "It's a gut feeling of mine. His stuff is there. His command isn't. My gut is to run him out there."
Likes: Dodgers manager Joe Torre on Derek Jeter whiffing three times on his 36th birthday Saturday: "Well, it was my present to him." ... Jerry Reinsdorf for owner of the year. The White Sox, who won their 11th consecutive game on Saturday, have not lost since Reinsdorf scolded GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen. ... Nice run by Texas, too. ... Fernando Valenzuela never fails to elicit a loud roar in Dodger Stadium when they show him on the big scoreboard. ... Steve Martin's "leaked" tour demands for his banjo tour with the Steep Canyon Rangers. Great stuff. ... Pompilio's Italian restaurant in Newport, Ky. Good neighborhood place. Had lunch there a week or so ago. Added bonus: The Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman characters in Rain Man had a meal here in the movie (the scene where Hoffman's character insists on counting the toothpicks the drop off of the counter). ... Mojo, the new disc from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Don't love it, but like it quite a bit.
Dislikes: Carlos Zambrano signs a $91.5 million contract a few years ago and behaves like this. And the Cubs should not be happy that he went out to dinner with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen later Friday night. After that embarrassing public meltdown, he should have stayed in and looked in the mirror.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well poor Tom Jefferson
"He loved the little maid out back
"Midnight creepin’ out to the servant’s shack
"Kept a secret under the bed
"Wrapped in a burlap sack"
-- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jefferson Jericho Blues