Andy Pettitte’s return to the Yankees took another step forward yesterday, as he threw 96 pitches in his latest tune-up start. The team has yet to make an official announcement, though I have to think Andy will return to Double-A Trenton for his next tune-up start this weekend (they’ll be playing at home) unless the weather doesn’t cooperate. Depending on how that start goes, he could be declared ready for the big leagues or in need of another minor league start. I could see it going either way right now, to be honest.
Monday’s scheduled day off affords the Yankees quite a bit of flexibility. They could use it to skip either Phil Hughes or David Phelps, avoiding their fifth starter until next Saturday against the Mariners. Conveniently, that would line up perfectly for Pettitte’s return if he does come through his next minor league tune-up start with flying colors. He’d actually have an extra day of rest prior to that start, which is probably ideal.
If Pettitte needs more time, then the Yankees can still use Monday to skip the lesser of two evils, either Hughes or Phelps. That will allow them to limit the number of starts made by the weakest rotation link before Andy returns. This isn’t rocket science; if the Yankees want to improve the performance of their starting staff, one of the first things they need to do is to stop running ineffective pitchers out there and hoping for the best. When alternatives present themselves, by all means use them. Monday’s day off is an alternative to another dud start.
The odds are stacked against Pettitte making a meaningful contribution to the Yankees this year given his age and temporary retirement, but I have a real hard time betting against him. He may or may not be ready to jump into the big leagues late next week, but he’s been continually making progress since signing in the middle of Spring Training and isn’t far off from being a real option for the rotation. One more start, and it could be go time for the big lefty.