The Yankees continued to get good news about Andy Pettitte‘s fractured left leg yesterday, as the left-hander threw a four-inning simulated game and declared himself ready to return to the rotation, albeit on a limited pitch count for the time being. The team wouldn’t commit to a plan going forward, but Joe Girardi gave some pretty strong indications that Pettitte will replace David Phelps when his turn comes around against next Tuesday. “It might be something that we do, I can’t tell you right now,” said the skipper, presumably with his fingers crossed behind his back.
Getting Pettitte back wasn’t the only good news of the day, as it was announced that Ivan Nova will take Freddy Garcia’s spot in the rotation starting Saturday. Garcia’s really struggled in his last four outings, failing to complete five innings in three of them, so the switch isn’t a surprise. Nova wasn’t pitching all that great before he got hurt, but I think we can all agree that the chances of him pitching well over the next three weeks are greater than Freddy’s. The Yankees need all the help they can get right now, so any move that brings even a marginal upgrade is worth making.
Since the rotation just got a bit of an overhaul and there are only 20 games left to play, let’s take a quick look at how the pitching lines up through the end of the season…
- Game 143 @ Red Sox: Phil Hughes
- Games 144-146 vs. Rays: CC Sabathia, Nova, Hiroki Kuroda
- Games 147-149 vs. Blue Jays: Pettitte, Hughes, Sabathia
- Games 150-152 vs. Athletics: Nova, Kuroda, Pettitte
- Games 153-155 @ Twins: Hughes, Sabathia, Nova
- Games 156-159 @ Blue Jays: Kuroda, Pettitte, Hughes, Sabathia
- Games 160-162 vs. Red Sox: Nova, Kuroda, Pettitte
The big series in there — they’re all big at this point, but I mean the really big one — is this weekend’s series against the Rays at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have both Sabathia and Kuroda lined up to pitch in that one, and if things go well they could really bury Tampa in the race for the AL East crown. Joe Maddon’s club is three back right now and could be four back depending on how things go tonight.
Phelps made it very difficult for the Yankees to take him out of the rotation with his performance last night — 5.2 innings of one-run ball at Fenway Park — but not impossible. Even a limited Pettitte is still an upgrade, plus shifting Phelps to the bullpen figures to help the still sketchy middle relief situation. I figure he’ll piggyback with Andy at first, but will soon enough join the improving Joba Chamberlain to shore up the middle innings that have been such a problem since about June.
If you’re an optimist and want to look ahead to the postseason, the Yankees would be set up well with Sabathia, Kuroda, and Pettitte lined up for Games One, Two, and Three of the ALDS, respectively. Ivan Nova is sandwiched between Sabathia and Kuroda right now, but that would surely change in October. If the Yankees are stuck playing a tiebreaker or a wildcard play-in game, the ball would go to Hughes. Well, either him or Sabathia on short rest, but let’s let the Bombers actually clinch something before we worry about the that. The important thing is that both Nova and Pettitte are set to rejoin the rotation the next turn through, and that should be a big help down the stretch.
Update: As Andy In Sunny Daytona points out, the Yankees can use that one off-day to flip Sabathia and Hughes in the rotation. Phil can probably use an extra day of rest at this point of the season while Sabathia already had his extra rest during his two DL stints. Switching the two would keep CC in line to start Game One of the ALDS if they manage to win the division while also lining him up perfectly for a potential tie-breaker/wildcard play-in game. The Yankees should really consider making the switch.