PITTSBURGH -- Could the National League Player of the Week be on his way to becoming the NL's pitcher of the year?
A.J. Burnett may not yet lead that conversation, but he is tied for the league lead in wins, and probably no other pitcher in the league can approach his club leadership in intangibles.
"He has got
to be noticed," said Burnett's catcher, Rod Barajas. "When you look at what he's done and how consistent he's been, I don't think many other pitchers have done what he has."
Burnett is pitching in his 14th season and has won 135 games -- but he has never received a single vote in Cy Young Award balloting, either in the NL (he began his career with the Marlins in 1999-2005) or in the AL.
"When he got here, he got into the mindset of mastering his craft. He's had good periods in the past, then stretches where things went sideways," said manager Clint Hurdle, who admits to never before having a comparable pitcher on any of his staffs. "I've never had an ace before, in all the years I managed. This is the first time I've had a guy with the experience that A.J. brought."
The subplot of Burnett's season is his renewed and continuing success with Barajas, his primary catcher during his 18-win season in 2008 in Toronto. In two seasons, their teams now are 32-12 with the Burnett-Barajas battery, and his own personal record is 27-10.
Between the Blue Jays and the Pirates, Burnett has won 20 of his last 24 decisions with Barajas behind the plate.