Andy Pettitte Returning To The New York Yankees
Uncle Andy is back. Seemingly content with his decision to retire prior to the 2011 season, Andy Pettitte has now decided to return to baseball by signing a $2.5 million minor league deal with the New York Yankees. One of the more popular Yankees of my lifetime, Pettitte’s eventual reappearance on the mound will be met with a great deal of anticipation from baseball fans that have followed his career for almost two decades.
This news comes as somewhat of a surprise as Pettitte appeared to be enjoying his time away from the game in Texas, far away from the day to day grind of preparing for that next start. I am sure we will hear from him in the days ahead detailing his reasons for coming back, but my guess is it will be something along the lines of missing his teammates or the competition. Either way, the “Core Four” is now back to three for at least one more season for the Yankees.
From a Yankee perspective, the addition of Pettitte is also a little unexpected. Struggling with rotation depth a year ago, the Bombers now have an overflow of pitchers competing for starting spots. Following ace CC Sabathia on the depth chart (in no particular order) are Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, and now Pettitte. It was believed that if one of the regular starters struggled or was hurt, the Yankees would simply backfill the rotation by bringing up one of their talented minor league pitchers (one of the Killer B’s perhaps). With Pettitte coming back for at least one more year, Brian Cashman can now stick to the organizational plan of having these youngsters pitch another full season in the minors in order to build up their innings and become more polished.
This team definitely has a lot of options to take the ball every fifth day, but a few questions still linger. The highly touted Pineda, who was acquired in the offseason from Seattle for Jesus Montero, has struggled with his velocity and location this spring. Given his age (23) and vast array of pitches, it will be interesting to see if he develops into the long-term solution behind CC the Yankees envisioned when they made the trade. Additionally, Hughes suffered from a “dead arm” last season and is still trying to regain his 2010 form, Kuroda will be pitching in the AL East for the first time, and Nova will be looking to prove last season wasn’t an aberration.
Where does Pettitte fit in to this mix? In his last season with the Bombers he was arguably the team’s No 2 starter, finishing with a record of 11-3 and a .328 ERA. The impact the year he spent away from baseball will have on his skill set is hard to gauge, but in his last few seasons in the majors his cut fastball leveled out around 89-91 mph. Despite his advanced age Pettitte always worked to keep himself in great shape, so there shouldn’t be any erosion in that department. As he got older he became a more complete pitcher, routinely grinding out starts and getting the big outs even when he didn’t have his best “stuff” (see 2009 World Series Game 6). It will likely be more of the same this year from Andy.
Pettitte, who will turn 40 in June, is slated to begin the season in the minor leagues before joining the Yankees rotation at some point during the season. By then the Yankee brass should have a clearer indication of how the pitchers are performing and who will be pushed to the side to make room for him. It’s possible they could employ a six man rotation for a chunk of the season, though CC wasn’t a fan of that strategy a year ago. With injuries and inconsistency bound to crop, you can never have enough starting pitching.
One of the good guys in all of sports, I am thrilled that Pettitte is returning to play another season with Mo, Jeter, and the rest. It’s only a matter of time before we get to see his trademark over the glove glare to go along with the best pickoff move in baseball back in action again.
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