How to exceed expectations in three starts


(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

When Andy Pettitte announced that he was coming out of retirement … well, wait. He never really announced it. The Yankees just signed him out of the blue one Friday afternoon in mid-March and that was it. There were no indications that was planning to come back, in fact there was quite the opposite — insistence that he wasn’t coming back. Pettitte was with the team as a guest instructor in Spring Training but there’s nothing unusual about that. Former players are all over the place in camp.

Anyway, when we found out Pettitte was coming out of retirement to rejoin the Yankees, I admit I was very skeptical about his ability to contribute anything meaningful this summer. We all love Andy, but he was still an almost 40-year-old guy who had spent a year away from the game and had missed a bunch of time due to injury in his final season as a player. The “attempt” part of his “comeback attempt” wasn’t being emphasized enough I thought; the odds were stacked against this thing working out.

Pettitte went through his various minor league tune-up starts and was actually pretty underwhelming statistically. He was allowing a ton of hits and runs to minor league kids but the team said not to worry about it, he was throwing strikes and the wind was blowing really hard. Fine, whatever. The Yankees called him up three weeks ago and to much fanfare and celebration, Pettitte allowed four runs in 6.1 innings against the light-hitting Mariners in his return. All four runs came on a pair of two-run homers and he walked more batters (three) than he struck out (two).

I was still pretty skeptical. There was some obvious rust still to be shaken off and we needed to see how Andy would rebound in five days. One feel-good start back does not a comeback make. Pettitte rebounded well of course, striking out nine Reds in eight shutout innings in his second start before holding the Royals to two runs in seven innings with eight strikeouts last night. It was the first time he struck out at least eight hitters in back-to-back starts since he wore an Astros’ uniform in July of 2006.

I’m not skeptical anymore. Three starts into his comeback, it’s pretty obvious that Pettitte can not only contribute to the Yankees this season, but he can be a damn good starting pitcher for them. Heck, if the Yankees were going to start a best-of-five playoff series today, Andy would be my number two starter. He’s looked that good. He’s running his cutter in on righties, he’s bending his curveball on the corners of the plate, and his changeup looks like it stops in mid-air. Pettitte doesn’t just look like he never left, he looks better than he has in a while. Maybe the year away from the game put some life back into that body.

Who knows what Andy will do from here on out. There is still a lot of season to be played and his body will have plenty of chances to betray him, but it’s hard to look at Pettitte right now and not consider him a bright spot. He’s exceeded my expectations in the sense that he’s shown he can still be dominant and pitch deep into games, curtailing concerns about him becoming a five-and-fly fifth starter type. Andy is no fifth starter right now. He’s the second best pitcher on the team already and the Yankees are going to need him to continue to pitch well as they help shake off this recent slump and climb back in the AL East race.

Categories : Pitching


  1. A.D. says:

    There is still a lot of season to be played and his body will have plenty of chances to betray him

    This is right, can only hope that the year off put him in a position to hold up over the whole season

    • Brian in NH says:

      Just hoping he doesn’t go all Bartolo on us at the end of the year and really look gassed. But if we can catch lightning in a bottle for a few months that is great too.

  2. Bartolo's Colon says:

    love pettitte, just hope he doesn’t get hurt. scared me to death when he tried to cover first yesterday.

  3. TheOneWhoKnocks says:

    I never had a doubt in my mind. Seriously? He’s Andy Pettitte. If there’s one starting pitcher in this world that has earned my trust it’s andy pettitte.

  4. CountryClub says:

    I never had a doubt that he’d pitch well for as long as he was healthy. Hopefully he stays healthy the whole yr. The All Star break will probably come at a perfect time for him (and maybe Hughes too). It’ll allow him to catch his breath for the stretch run.

  5. Mr. December says:

    Agreed Andy has been a pleasant surprise….so far. Its still hard to believe that his body will allow him to maintain that level of play for the entire season.

    Fingers crossed!

  6. Steve (different one) says:

    The Yankees never should have signed him because it blocks David Phelps!

  7. Jim Is Bored says:

    This makes me so happy. Wasn’t ready for him to retire when he did; seeing him back without missing a beat is pretty fantastic.

  8. Russ says:

    I felt all along that Andy could help make a difference this year… like you guys I just hope he holds up for the whole season.

  9. #28 in 2012 says:

    Andy was yelling and was animated like I never seen him before. He was always intense, but not so visibly pumped all game long as he seemed to be last night. Arod was screaming too and visibly upset with him self when popping up with bases loaded (2 hr at this point). I think the team was even more sick of losing than we were. They had the little league emotion out there last night, so awesome to see.
    So Andy is looking like a much needed number 2 pitcher indeed. Makes Phil a legit number 3 now and Kuroda where he belongs in a 4 spot.

    Not so bad after all.

    • Kosmo says:

      Pettitte has a great resume behind him so one expects what he has so far given, but to claim Hughes is a legit number 3 SP is still a stretch, let´s wait until around the All-Star break before we start counting them there chickens.

      • jjyank says:

        Yeah, let’s not jump the gun on Phil Hughes: #3 starter here. He’s looked much better, but he’s gotta keep this up for more than a handful of starts.

        • #28 in 2012 says:

          Andy had 2 great starts and you have no problems calling him a number 2. Phil has been getting better progressively for 5 starts but is still not proven for a 3. Im not saying he is an Ace, just looks like he fits as a 3 right now.
          Who in baseball is a good number 3 comp?

          • Jim Is Bored says:

            Andy had 2 great starts after an entire career of them and a year off. That’s a bit different than assuming Phil is ready to take the next step.

          • jjyank says:

            Umm, first of all I never actually said anywhere that Andy was a no doubt #2 pitcher going forward. And Jim said above me, Andy has a borderline hall of fame caliber career to back up his performance, Hughes has…well, two months in 2010? He’s got a lot more to prove than Andy does.

  10. Ted Nelson says:

    I never understood the insistence around here that it was a long-shot. It was not a certainty, but he retired healthy and very effective… and it was only one year off. I would say that the odds were stacked heavily in his favor.

    • #28 in 2012 says:

      I think having the Roger Clemens thing over with may have contributed with undivided attention. Andy seems like a guy who would be bothered by the court crap he had to deal with. Its all good now, he looked like a kid out there last night. Looking forward to Andy dealing all year long.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      Yeah, it’s no different than someone recovering from surgery, except for the lack of any actual health issues. Just a year of rest and relaxation.

    • jjyank says:

      I was one of the people suggesting that a year off might have done his body good, but I wouldn’t go as far to say that the odds were stacked heavily in his favor. He was still a 39 year old trying to get back into shape after a year off to compete against guys in their twenties.

      I guess I’d take the middle ground. I don’t think the odds were stacked heavily either way, maybe a slight lean towards against Andy. Doing what he did isn’t easy, and a lot of guys wouldn’t be able to.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        I still think that the odds were stacked heavily in his favor. Your body doesn’t suddenly forget everything it knew from taking one year off. He had plenty of time to work himself back into shape. I don’t understand why people make the year off such a big deal. If anything I think it would help. Your body doesn’t remember what sort of shape you were in a year ago. If he’s in shape now, he’s in shape.

        “Doing what he did isn’t easy, and a lot of guys wouldn’t be able to.”

        Well, yes. Very, very few guys can pitch in MLB. The ones who can, though, don’t often suddenly forget how after one healthy season off. Who would not have been able to come back after one year with the sort of 37 year old season Andy had? It wasn’t a certainty and he could have gotten injured at any time… but I still don’t see the big deal.

  11. Robinson Tilapia says:

    I really tried to temper my expectations with Andy. This is nothing short of amazing.

  12. Erica says:

    I’m so thrilled with Andy. We expect the best and we know we’ll get the best. And even on the days we don’t get the best, I feel like we can still trust him to get the job done.

  13. The Stare says:

    It’s like I never left.

  14. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    I wish we were in a position to say ‘hey, let’s make sure Andy skips a few starts in August and takes a week off in September to be ready for they playoffs’ but…

    • jjyank says:

      Nobody knows if they will or will not be in that position in August/September. Still got over 2/3 of the season to go, let’s not jump ship quite yet.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

        Oh, I’m not that guy from a few threads back. Just saying we’re not in a position to be resting anybody…there was a point this spring I was thinking how cool it would be to have Phelps, Banuelos and PTBNL as starters to skip the regular rotation late summer in prep for the playoffs, and now for a time, Phelps WAS the regular rotation.

  15. rek4gehrig says:

    The STARE. It’s all in the STARE!!!

  16. OldYanksFan says:

    “Pettitte doesn’t just look like he never left, he looks better than he has in a while. Maybe the year away from the game put some life back into that body.”

    That. No doubt, the continuous baseball seasons are a real grind, especially now that many players work out 11 months a year. I believe that not only did the year off allow his body rest, but his comeback was 100% self motivated and against great odds. Even after Cashman signed Pineda/Kuroda, Andy (after a week or so off) continued his quest.

    While for the last 3 years he was always ‘on the verge of retirement’, he is now 1000% committed, and has no guilt pangs about not being with his family.

    So, with his shortened season and tremendous mindset, I think he will continue to be successful.

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