I thought I knew A.J. Burnett. I really did. He came to the Yankees and pitched like he was born to wear the pinstripes, and I trusted him.
Then, ever so surreptitiously, the good A.J. vanished into thin air, only to be replaced by an impostor.
The plot thickened tonight after the game in Baltimore. The Yankees may have beaten the O’s 9-6, thanks to five homers and excellent relief pitching, but the impostor stunk up the joint, yielding six runs on 11 hits over five plus innings, then skipped out. Suddenly, it dawned on me: Dave Eiland and Joe Girardi were of no help. It was up to me to solve the mystery of the disappearing A.J. So I hired a private investigator.
His name was Steve and he was a man of few words. He said he’d bring the good A.J. back and I believed him. He began his investigation by interviewing the players. He started with Posada.
“Did A.J. say anything to you?” Steve asked JoPo after Yankees media relations director Jason Zillo granted him access to the clubhouse. “Did he seem unduly upset?”
“I’m probably the wrong one to talk to,” said Jorge. “In the second inning, I stood there at home plate, not even realizing it was ball four. The umpire had to tell me to walk to first base.” He shrugged, embarrassed. “And in the fifth, I headed for the dugout on strike two. Jeter made fun of me. I was totally screwed up tonight, except that I hit a couple of dingers.”
Steve moved on to Swisher. “You’re a friendly guy – the type who notices what’s going on with people. Did you pick up anything unusual about A.J.? Something that would indicate his state of mind?”
“He yelled at himself after Pie went deep in the first,” said Swish, as he was getting congratulations for his latest homer at Camden Yards. “Some coach on the Orioles thought he was yelling at Pie and went ballistic. Are you telling me that it wasn’t the real A.J. who teed up that fat pitch?”
“Buddy, I’m the one asking the questions,” Steve barked and headed toward Hinske.
“I’m pretty new to the Yankees,” said Eric. “I don’t know anything about anybody.”
Steve took a long drag on his cigarette, then threw the butt on the floor and crushed it with the heel of his white shoe. “Hey, Cano,” he said.
Robbie danced over and high-fived the private eye. “Yeah, man. You lookin’ for A.J.? He took off.”
“I get that,” Steve said with a scowl. “Did he tell you when he’d be back?”
Cano laughed. “Si. October. Playoff time. He come back and do real good then. But right now?” He laughed again and blew a big pink bubble in Steve’s face. “His twin brother Gomer is pitching instead of him.”
“HIS TWIN BROTHER?” Steve and I said at the same time. There was nothing in the Yankees media guide suggesting that A.J. Burnett had a twin brother named Gomer. And yet Cano knew the truth. Probably Melky knew it too.
“Well, that explains it,” I said. “Case closed.”
“Glad it worked out. Sounds like the Yankees will be just fine in the postseason.”
“I’m really relieved. Thanks. How can I ever show my gratitude?”
“I know you’re married, She-Fan, but…”