What Andy Pettitte’s comeback means for the New York Yankees

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Still reeling from the news that Andy Pettitte is coming back.  He sat in that press conference a little over a year ago and made a pretty convincing case that he was done.  I suppose they all do. And so many of them come back.

Which is fine. Because if you had the talent to do something that so many have described as the most magical wonderful experience in their lives — playing major league baseball — you’d hold on to it with all of your might.  So, no, there will not be any criticism of Andy Pettitte’s reversal from this quarter.  Good for him and God bless him.

So, with that out of the way, what does this all mean for the New York Yankees, who now have seven starting pitchers?

At first, probably nothing.  Pettitte is reported to have thrown some bullpens over the winter and he’s generally in shape, but it will take him a little time to get up to baseball speed.  He’ll likely take the rest of spring training to get back to major league shape and it would not be at all surprising to see him begin the year in extended spring training down in Tampa.

Oh, and after he gets in shape, one wonders if they’ll hold him beyond mid-to-late April. That’s when the Roger Clemens trial starts, and Pettitte is expected to be a witness.  Maybe no one with the Yankees cares about this, but I would think that it might be easier for all involved if he makes his big league return after that than before.

But when he does come back, who is the odd man out in New York?  My guess: Freddy Garcia.

At the moment, the fifth starter’s job is down to Garcia and Phil Hughes.  Hughes has worked from the pen before, however, and Garcia is just not suited for it according to most folks.  So the Yankees break camp with Garcia in the five slot and Hughes in relief.

But once Pettitte is ready, Garcia has no place. They could attempt to keep him around as a long man.  Or they could try to trade him. And assuming he gets one or two halfway decent starts under his belt before then, there may very well be a market for him.  But they could also simply DFA him and see if he’ll accept a trip to Scranton.  Doubtful he would, but worth a shot.

The upshot is that, assuming Pettitte is good to go, the rotation for most of the season should look like this:  Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Pineda and Pettitte, with Garcia finding new employment.

Oh, one final question: how will Andy Pettitte actually, you know, do?

I think he’ll do pretty well.  His last year, 2010, was his best since 2005.  His strikeout rate (7.0 per 9 IP) was higher than his career average. His hits per nine innings (8.6) was lower than his career norms too.  His walk rate was right where it always is at 2.9 BB per 9 IP.

Yes, he’s two years older and yes he’s coming off a layoff, but even if you adjust down for that, Pettitte figures to be no worse than an average starter, and likely somewhat above average.  Which is not a bad pickup for $2.5 million.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.