Burnett takes the hill for Yankees opener with Royals

A.J. Burnett could be pitching for his spot in the rotation game series with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Burnett produced the worst statistical season ever by a Yankee starter last season and this year hasn't been much better, as he has gone 8-9 with a 4.60 earned run average. Lately, though, he has been even worse, posting an 0-3 mark over his last seven starts with a 6.00 ERA.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi had been utilizing a six-man rotation, but has stated that he would like to go back to using five starters and Burnett and Phil Hughes seem to be the odd men out. Hughes, though, was terrific in a win on Saturday and has pitched well of late.

Girardi's decision was delayed, however, when Freddy Garcia was scratched with a cut finger, giving Burnett another chance to prove himself.

However, Burnett, who is in the third year of a four-year $82.5 million deal, is 0-8 with a 7.18 ERA in 13 August outings since joining the Yankees. He is 3-3 lifetime versus the Royals with a 2.52 ERA in nine starts.

The Yankees had the finale of their three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays postponed by rain on Sunday, but pulled within a half-game of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East standings, as they fell in Seattle. Boston is idle on Monday, meaning the Yankees could move into a tie atop the division with a win.

Kansas City, meanwhile, lost two of three to Chicago over the weekend, falling 6-2 on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field. Mitch Maier ripped a two-run single, while Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera had doubles for the Royals, who have dropped eight of their last 10.

Jeff Francis (4-13) was tagged with the loss after lasting only 3 2/3 innings and giving up six runs on 10 hits while walking a pair and striking out one.

"I didn't really have very sharp command," Francis said of his rough outing. "When you fall behind guys and don't have good command, you're kind of forced to come in the zone and they took some good rips."

Getting the call for the Royals tonight will be righty Felipe Paulino, who is 1-4 with a 3.45 ERA. Paulino did not get a decision on Wednesday against Tampa, but pitched well, allowing a run and three hits before leaving after the fifth inning with a sore back.

The Royals have lost his last five starts.

Kansas City took two of three from the Yanks earlier in the year. These teams split four-games at Kauffman Stadium a year ago.