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.