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Shockingly, I'm no longer hearing any second-guessing about the Orioles' decision to pull out of the A.J. Burnett auction a few years ago. The book on the guy was that he was erratic and undependable and the book has proven to be gospel.

Funny how things sometimes turn out. Alfredo Simon also has been erratic and undependable the past couple of years -- on a couple of levels -- but he seems to be on the rise as Burnett comes unglued in New York.

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In his 10 starts this year, he has pitched through five innings eight times and has a very respectable 3.86 ERA. Who knows what kind of opportunity he would have been afforded at the very start of the season, so it's strangely fortuitous for him that he showed up after the starting rotation began to disintegrate. The circumstances that led to that eventuality are sad and troubling, but Simon has emerged as a seemingly legit candidate to win a place in next year's rotation.

This is a gratuitous comparison that really means nothing, but while Simon has put up solid numbers in his 10 starts (dating back to July 9), Burnett has been awful. He's 1-5 with a 7.79 ERA in his last 10 starts, but he'll get at least one more chance to hold his place in the Yankees rotation on Thursday night.

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If he pitches well, he might have to throw some credit to Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who recently counseled him to take some pressure off himself.

"He told me to relax,'' Burnett told the New York Post. "He said in the past I looked more relaxed. He said to check my finger pressure because if the grip on the ball is tight, you aren't as smooth. He also talked about breathing techniques, trying to hear your heartbeat. He said to relax and have fun."

We'll find out soon enough. His likely start after the big Red Sox series -- if he's still in Joe Girardi's rotation, would be against the Orioles next week at Yankee Stadium.

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