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AJ Burnett Says: "Hit Our Guys? Fuhgettaabout It!"

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IJune 3, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 27:  Pitcher A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees throws against the Texas Rangers in the first inning on May 27, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees beat the Texas Rangers in Yankee Stadium Tuesday night by a score of 12-3.

Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui each hit three-run homers.

But there is a bigger story.

In the fourth inning, Yankees' first baseman, Mark Teixeira, was hit by Ranger starter, Vicente Padilla, for the second time in the game.

The Yankees rallied to score seven runs in the inning and put the game out of reach.

But the story really unfolded in the top of the fifth.

Nelson Cruz had hit a three-run homer off Yankee starter, AJ Burnett, in the second inning to give the Rangers a lead.

Cruz came up in the fifth after Teixeira had been hit.

Burnett worked the count and then threw a blazing fastball up and in, putting Cruz on his backside.

Burnett and both benches were warned by the home plate umpire.

Burnett would go on to strike Cruz out and then cruise to his fourth win of the season, working seven strong innings.

But the story was in the one pitch that knocked Cruz down.

For a number of years, Yankee hitters have been targets and it seemed that Yankee pitchers had been told not to retaliate. At least it seemed they never did.

But last night, AJ Burnett's message was very clear: "If you throw at my guys, you better not dig in."

Burnett has been an important force since coming to the Yankees in his free-agent offseason.

During Spring Training, Burnett brought the pitching staff together, insisting that they hang out together, work out together, and bond.

Burnett was the instigator of all starting pitchers assembling to watch the starter for the day warm up. The starters who have the day off now almost always can been seen together on the bench during the game.

Burnett has also initiated whipped cream pies for the stars of the games in the recent Yankee winning streak, promoting a looser club house and a celebratory feel for the team.

But his message last night will resonate more than anything else he has done.

It is almost certain that someone on the Rangers will get a quiet message back to Padilla and the other Ranger pitchers. It may be Cruz himself or a coach. But someone will tell the pitchers that there is a new Sheriff in town in the Bronx and that all his deputies go armed as well.

In the first series the Yankees played in Boston, David Ortiz warned Yankee starter, Joba Chamberlain not to throw at Kevin Youkilis.

This seemed to intimidate young Chamberlain although he pitched very well in his start in Beantown.

But now, the word will circulate that if you throw at Yankee hitters, there are pitchers in the Bronx who are not going to take it lying down.

His teammates have come to appreciate Burnett for many reasons this season.

But one pitch to one Ranger hitter last night may have done more to endear him to his teammates and Yankee fans than anything else he could have done.

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