Last year we all expected the Yankees to go out and make a significant midseason move to bolster a questionable pitching staff, but that move never came. Starters Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, and Ivan Nova performed better than expected while David Robertson and call-up Hector Noesi emerged to shore up the bullpen when Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano went down with elbow injuries. Eduardo Nunez performed well enough off the bench that no outside help was needed when Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez missed weeks at a time with lower body injuries.
That was the exception and not the rule, however. Most contenders need to go outside the organization to improve their roster over the course of the summer, and the 2012 Yankees don’t figure to be any different. Before they do that though, the club already has a trio of pitchers due to return at various points of the season to help boost their staff. All the midseason pitching help they need could end up coming from within.
Andy Pettitte (May-ish)
I have to admit, I didn’t think I would be writing about Pettitte’s return like, a week ago. The veteran southpaw decided to give it another go though, and now he just has to get himself back into playing shape over the next few weeks before returning to the rotation. The Yankees were very clear about that last part as well, Pettitte will be in the rotation as soon as he’s ready. The plan calls for six or eight weeks of “Spring Training,” which will surely include some minor league starts to get ready.
There’s no way of knowing how a near-40-year-old pitcher will return after a year-long hiatus, especially in the AL East. There are reasons to be skeptical about just how successful Pettitte can be this season, though I don’t think he would go through all this trouble if he didn’t think he could get back to being the guy he was just two years ago. Whether he can physically be that guy is another thing entirely, but it’s also possible that the year off does his body good. I have a hard time betting against Andy, but it will be some comeback if he gives the Yankees four or five strong months.
David Aardsma (mid-August)
The forgotten free agent pickup, the Yankees signed Aardsma to a ridiculously cheap one-year, $500k contract with a $500k club option for 2013 about a week into Spring Training. The 30-year-old right-hander didn’t pitch at all least season because of a torn labrum in his hip and later Tommy John surgery. He has his elbow procedure in late-July but comments from the team last month indicate that mid-August is a more realistic target for his return.
The Aardsma signing is geared more towards next season, but he could definitely help late in the year assuming all goes well during his rehab. He started to harness his power stuff (averaged 94.0 mph with the fastball) after taking over as the closer in Seattle, though he’s always been a high strikeout (9.6 K/9 and 25.9 K% during his two years with the Mariners) and high walk (4.4 BB/9 and 11.8 BB%) guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees extended his rehab a bit and didn’t call him up until the rosters expand on September 1st, but having a dirt cheap and experienced power bullpen arm in your back pocket for the late-season stretch drive sure is a nice luxury.
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Joba was originally going to be included in this post because he was due to return from Tommy John surgery in mid-June, but that almost certainly will not happen following this morning’s news of his dislocated ankle. There is no timetable for his return just yet, and in fact they’re still awaiting test results to determine the full extent of the injury according to David Waldstein. Even if the Yankees hear the best possible news and there’s no further damage, they can’t count on Joba for anything this year. That’s a shame, and hopefully both Pettitte and Aardsma contribute a bit more.