When I heard that Andy Pettitte had to be taken out of the game last night due to a balk back, my thoughts first turned to Chien-Ming Wang. After burning through millions of pixels discussing the Yanks’ treatment of the erstwhile ace, it seemed all for naught. With one bad back, Wang would find himself back in the rotation by Wednesday.
Not according to Andy Pettitte. The Yanks’ veteran lefty maintains that he will make his next start. It’s just old age, he says about the back he aggravated in Texas. When asked by the beat writers if he would take a time out in five days, he replied, “No, no, no. I’ll be there.”
Now, Pettitte is not one to take himself out of the lineup when he’s injured. Last season, he pitched nearly two months with a sore shoulder, and his performance suffered because of it. This year, the Yankees are seemingly paying more attention to Pettitte’s aging body. Still, he will lobby hard to make his next start.
While Pettitte has long been a competitor, a note on Twitter from RAB reader dispatcher307 got me thinking. He wrote: “Andy will pitch his next start even if he shouldn’t. The downside to incentive-based contracts.”
That’s an astute observation about Andy Pettitte’s situation. Last season, Pettitte had the backing of a $16 million deal. This year, he signed for a $5.5 million base salary with numerous performance-based incentives. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Pettitte can earn up to $4.5 million in bonuses based on the number of innings he pitches and $2 million in roster bonuses based on time spent off the disabled list.
So far, Pettitte is on pace to throw around 205 innings this season. If he makes it to 210, he earns an additional $750,000. If he misses a start and doesn’t even reach the 200-inning mark, he’ll lose out on the 210 IP bonus as well as another $750,000 he earns at 200 innings pitched. So missing his next turn through the rotation on Wednesday could cost Pettitte up to $1.5 million. Of course he wants to make his next start.
In the end, the ultimate decision with rest with the Yankee coaches and medical staff. The team is concerned that Pettitte’s back is preventing him from finishing his pitches, something very evident in the sixth last night, and if the team feels that Pettitte puts himself at risk by pitching on Wednesday, he just won’t do it. “It’s something that we’ll have to watch over the next four days,” Girardi said. The money though watches over all.