Andy Pettitte, 11-2 on the season with a 2.88 ERA in 18 starts, last pitched on July 18 after ten days of rest due to the All Star break. During that game against the Rays, Pettitte strained his groin, and although the team had hoped he would return within six weeks, the southpaw has been slow to heal. After a setback last week, the Yankees do not expect Pettitte to return until early September, and the Yanks have the makings of a pitching problem.
Pettitte and the Yanks unveiled the bad news about Andy’s groin last night. The lefty had gone for an MRI Tuesday night as he still felt pain in his legs, and the results were discouraging. The imaging scan revealed what the Yanks called a “small, persistent strain of the left groin, and Pettitte will rest for a week. Once he ramps up his rehab again, he’ll need to make two Minor League starts, and the Yankees do not see him returning until around September 10. “It’s going to end up, right now, at least seven weeks, and that’s longer than we anticipated,” Joe Girardi said to reporters.
Pettitte worries that he, at age 38, may not pitch again, but he seems to blame himself for the extended absence. He says he pushed too hard early on to get back into pitching shape. “To say I’m frustrated, that’s an understatement,” Pettitte said. “I’m trying to stay as positive as I can, but I want to pitch. I just want to get back and I want to pitch and I want to be healthy.”
The Yankees know that readying Pettitte for the playoffs is their primary concern, but getting there might become an issue. The club is locked in a battle with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East while the Red Sox just won’t die. Boston is sitting 5.5 games out of first — six on the loss side — with 12 games left against the Rays and Yankees. The Bombers have their work cut out for them, but do they have the pitching pieces they need?
After last night’s game, Dustin Moseley’s immediate role on the team is hazy at best. He threw what I would call an adequate five innings against the Detroit Tigers. I’m willing to forgive him the two home runs to Miguel Cabrera, but after a reasonably strong start, Moseley faded by the fifth. He threw a bunch of change-ups, sinkers and curveballs, but with only a four-mile-per-hour separation between the change and fastball. He hit 90 only a few times and topped it just once. His stuff is mediocre at best.
For Moseley, his biggest problem is that he doesn’t miss bats. Tigers’ hitters swung and missed at just eight of his 84 pitches last night, and despite a 3-2 record, he has an ERA of 4.76 and an unimpressive 19:14 K:BB ratio in 39.2 innings. He’s also allowed a whopping nine home runs and now has a FIP of 6.15. I know he pitched a gem against the Red Sox, but would anyone really trust him in a key spot right now?
And of course the Bombers still have their Phil Hughes problem. The youngster takes the mound this afternoon with 134.2 innings under his belt and a season limit believed to be around 175. As Larry Brooks of The Post notes, Pettitte’s injury is impinging on the Yanks’ plans for Hughes. The team doesn’t expect to pull Hughes from the rotation and certainly won’t do so with Pettitte out. But they could be risking a big jump in Phil’s innings if the Red Sox continue to put pressure on the AL East leaders and Pettitte’s injury lingers.
At this point in the season, the Yankees have few options. Shadowing Moseley at AAA, Ivan Nova gave up a run on five hits in 6.2 innings. He struck out seven but walked four, and with a 12-3 ERA with a 2.86 ERA, he could be in line for a few Bronx starts. His Minor League equivalences before last night show a FIP of 4.78 and an unimpressive 1.6 K:BB rate.
For now, then, the Yanks will move ahead with a hole in their rotation. They’re probably rely on the bullpen to get 12 outs if Phil Hughes is pitching in some blowouts, and they’re cross their fingers that Andy gets well soon and that his replacement can keep a lid on the runs. After all, as Brian Cashman said after last night’s win, “You can’t replace Andy Pettitte.”