Sunday, March 18, 2012

Welcome Back, Andy

In a somewhat surprising move on Thursday, Jack Curry of the YES Network reported that Andy Pettitte did his best Brett Favre imitation by coming out of his one year retirement to return to the Yankees.

Pettitte was serving as a spring training instructor for the team in Tampa and many, including his former teammates, had noted that the lefty was in great shape.  Nobody was aware that the reason why he was in such great shape was that he was secretly throwing bullpens since January 1, at his home in Texas this winter.  In December, Pettitte was offered a contract somewhere between $10-12 million by general manager Brian Cashman, before Cashman traded for Michael Pineda and signed Hideki Kuroda.

Pettitte declined Cashman's offer, but he still continued to work out.  Last week he threw a secret bullpen in front of Cashman, Joe Girardi, Gene Michael and pitching coach Larry Rothschild and that's when the contract discussions began.  Pettitte agreed to a one-year $2.5 million minor league deal.

So what does this all mean for the Yankees?

An already crowded starting rotation just got even more crowded.

CC Sabathia and Hideki Kuroda will no doubt make the rotation.  That leaves five more pitchers for three open spots.  Pettitte will not be ready to join the team until early May at the earliest, but, what happens when he returns?  Joe Girardi is going to have some tough decisions to make.

Michael Pineda has not been the greatest in spring training.  His velocity is significantly lower than it was last season. He also came into camp overweight and still has excess weight he needs to lose.  Pineda, in all honesty, could be sent to the minors if he still needs to build up his velocity.

Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes could also be sent down to the minors as both still have options.  I honestly do not see the Yankees sending Hughes down as he has had an outstanding spring training so far. His fastball is topping out around 94 miles-per-hour, which is a significant improvement from last spring.  Hughes has made his pitches and shown he's ready to prove himself after having a poor showing last season.  The key for Hughes will be trying to remain injury-free.  Hughes has had some freak injuries in the past.  Nova, could be demoted as well.  The Yankees demoted him last season, even though Nova was the team's most consistent starter last summer.

Finally the mystery man in all of this is Freddy Garcia.  Over the winter, Garcia signed a major league contract and Cashman said Garcia proved himself enough last season saying he would not have to fight for a spot in the rotation because of last season's success.  Well, Cashman may have to take back that statement as Garcia is certainly competing for a spot in the rotation.  Garcia could be traded by the time Pettitte makes his return to the rotation.  As Jon Heyman of CBS Sports pointed out, that may be a bit tricky.  Garcia currently has a bruised hand and has to approve of any trades before June 16.  But, Cashman could get lucky as many teams are always looking for extra starters (including two in his own division).

Pettitte's impact on the club will go beyond the rotation.  Pettitte is a veteran and will be 40 in June.  He's obviously been around the league for a long time and his presence in the locker room could be beneficial to his teammates especially the younger guys like Pineda. Pettitte is always up front and will take the blame when things are his fault or not his fault.  Accountability is huge, especially in the crazy spotlight of New York.

Most Yankee fans are grateful for Pettitte being back mainly for his success in October.  His 19 career postseason wins are the most by any pitcher in Major League history.  His return also reminds fans that they now have a trio of players (Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera) from the dynasty years of the late 90s and early 2000s.

I for one, am very grateful Pettitte returned.  I was devastated when he decided to retire and I can only hope he'll be as effective as he was for so many years with the Yankees. 

I've included an iconic picture of Pettitte.  It's the first thing I think of whenever I hear his name.  What's more intimidating than starting into those deep brown eyes, especially during a meaningful postseason game?

*Image courtesy of:

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