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Originally published Saturday, December 25, 2010 at 5:35 PM

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New York Yankees could use rebound year from pitcher A.J. Burnett | Baseball

The New York Yankees are seemingly short on starting pitching. They are counting on A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes behind ace CC Sabathia.

Baseball

Burnett's comeback is crucial for Yankees: Spending isn't always the solution to your problems, even if you are the New York Yankees.

With free agent Cliff Lee having turned down a reported $132 million and Andy Pettitte seemingly headed for retirement, the Yankees are seemingly short on starting pitching. They are counting on Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett behind CC Sabathia, with rookie Ivan Nova and journeyman Sergio Mitre the next-best options.

General manager Brian Cashman is likely to add an arm or two to the staff before spring training — though for the moment he is talking about internal options — but little would mean more for the team that has been to the American League Championship Series nine times in the past 15 seasons than getting more from the 33-year-old Burnett.

Signed to a five-year, $55 million deal by the Yankees after an 18-victory season for the Florida Marlins in 2008, Burnett was 10-15 with a 5.26 earned-run average in 2010. His ERA spikes to 7.01 if nine starts against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals are excluded.

"A.J. and I have talked a lot," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "And A.J. reached out to (pitching coach) Larry Rothschild, and they're going to work on some things before spring training even starts. For A.J., it was a tough year last year. But I believe he's going to have a good year. He's going to bounce back this year and be the pitcher that we expected."

Burnett has lost velocity off his fastball three years in a row (according to PitchFX) and gets fewer swings and misses on his curveball.

Soccer

Chivas USA signs Conrad: Chivas USA of Major League Soccer has signed defender Jimmy Conrad, 33, who had been with Kansas City since 2003. Conrad has played 28 matches for the U.S. national team.

Inter Milan hires Leonardo: Leonardo, a Brazilian who is the former manager of AC Milan of Italy, has been hired as the new manager of rival Inter Milan. Rafa Benitez's contract was terminated by mutual agreement.

Boxing

Klitschkos reportedly are willing to fight Haye: A German newspaper is reporting the Klitschko brothers of Ukraine have promised to fight David Haye in 2011 and are offering the British heavyweight a choice of which sibling to challenge.

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A back injury forced Haye, the WBA champion, to withdraw from a fight with Wladimir Klitschko in 2009. Before retiring next October, the 30-year-old Haye wants to fight both Wladimir — who holds the IBF and WBO belts — and older brother Vitali Klitschko, the WBC champ.

On its website, German daily Bild quotes the Klitschkos as saying: "We promise there will be a fight against Haye in 2011."

Their statement adds "he can choose which of us he wants to step into the ring against to lose his world title."

Olympics

That's the ticket: London 2012 organizers say 2 million people have registered for tickets to the Olympics. When tickets go on sale in March, 8.8 million seats will be available at prices ranging from $31 for standard events to a symbolic $3,105 for prime seats at the opening ceremony.

International athletics

Queen Elizabeth II praises sports: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II championed the role of sports in building communities in her annual Christmas message to the nation, crediting athletics with teaching valuable social skills and providing a different perspective on life.

Britain's government recently was criticized for plans to cut funding to a school sports program; it partly rescinded the decision after an outcry from athletes and educators.

The queen enjoys riding horses on her Windsor estate, and many members of her family are keen amateur athletes.

Horse racing

Santa Anita opens Sunday: Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., opens for its 74th winter/spring meeting Sunday and the main-track races will be on a dirt surface.

As Daily Racing Form put it, the dirt track "brings to an end a three-year period in which Santa Anita's races were run on two synthetic surfaces and encountered trouble with drainage."

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