NEW YORK -- A.J. Burnett may be winless in his last seven starts for the Yankees, but he can count on one important voice being in his corner: the one belonging to general manager Brian Cashman.

Cashman launched into an impassioned defense of Burnett's season on Friday, opining that the level of criticism being heard about the 34-year-old right-hander hasn't been warranted by his pitching.

"The stuff on A.J. is well overblown," Cashman said. "A.J. has been solid for us this year. I just think the way it's playing doesn't necessarily reflect the way he's pitched. Let's put it that way. The public outcry recently is all emotion rather than actual."

Burnett is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in seven starts since beating the Brewers on June 29, with the Yankees going 3-4 in those games, prompting speculation that Burnett -- and not Phil Hughes -- could exit the rotation when the Yankees plan to go down to five starters on Monday.

While Cashman said that decision still has not been finalized, he pointed to Burnett's run support over those outings and said that his last seven starts as a whole were "not bad."

Cashman acknowledged that Burnett has not lived up to his billing as a No. 2 starter behind ace CC Sabathia, but said that Burnett is still a serviceable starter in the American League East.

"A.J. Burnett is not pitching anywhere close to as bad as people reflect," Cashman said. "They've got him pulled out of the rotation, and I just think it's a stupid reaction."

Burnett was pleased by Cashman's comments, saying, "That's awesome. One thing about Cash is, he's always had my back."

Cashman added that Burnett's contract -- he's earning $16.5 million this year, the third year of a five-year, $82.5 million deal -- is playing a part in public opinion.

"I think he's being treated differently because he has money attached," Cashman said. "So forgive him for saying yes to a contract. If you want to blame somebody for the contract, blame me. But the man can still pitch, the man is a starter, he can still help us significantly."

Rivera, Yanks not concerned by recent outings

NEW YORK -- About an hour after Mariano Rivera served up a crushing three-run homer to Angels pinch-hitter Russell Branyan on Thursday, the Yankees' closer was right back on the mound at Yankee Stadium.

It was the afternoon of the Yankees' annual family picnic, and Rivera was whizzing Wiffle balls past the bats of Rafael Soriano's children. If there's one thing Rivera can do, it's turn the page quickly.

"I'm not surprised. Those things happen," said Rivera, who also kicked around a soccer ball on the infield. "It depends how you react to those things. That's what it is. Whatever happens, happens. You've got to put it behind you."

Still, most aren't used to seeing Rivera so touchable -- after Rivera regrouped to notch his 30th save, Branyan commented that "for a three-game stretch, I've never seen Mariano hit this way."

But even as Rivera has allowed a run in three straight games for just the eighth time in his career, the Yankees seem confident that the 41-year-old closer is just a little bit off.

"He's been through it enough times in his career to know it happens," manager Joe Girardi said. "Great hitters go into slumps, too. It's just the game of baseball. Mo has been so close to being automatic that when he has a blip, it's more of a news story than somebody else."

Girardi said he would need to see Rivera missing his spots by a great margin, issuing more walks, to truly be concerned. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman also shrugged off Rivera's last three games, having bigger fish to fry.

"I've seen it before," Cashman said. "He's superhuman, but he's still human. But no, I'm not worried."

Bombers bits

• Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that he would "highly doubt" the team will make any additions via the waiver wire before Aug. 31. "I think all our activity took place at the [Trade] Deadline," he said. "What you see is what you're going to get."


 • Left-hander Pedro Feliciano threw 30 pitches on Friday in his first batting-practice session at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., according to The Associated Press. Feliciano has been sidelined all season with a capsule tear in his pitching shoulder.

• The Yankees announced that they will hold a special ceremony prior to Saturday's game to celebrate Derek Jeter joining the 3,000-hits club. The team is encouraging fans to arrive early and be in their seats by 3:45 p.m. ET.