Welcoming back Andy Pettitte

Randy Levine talks to MLB.com's Barry Bloom
9/18-9/20 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

The Yankees improved their rotation this past weekend pretty much the only way a club can improve at this point of the season: they got a player back from the DL. Ivan Nova returned from his shoulder problem to throw six innings of one-run ball in an important game against the Rays on Saturday, striking out eight and looking an awful lot like the guy he was in the second half of last season. Considering how poorly Freddy Garcia had been performing in that rotation spot for the last few weeks, Nova’s performance was a big lift.

Tonight, the Yankees will welcome another player back from the DL. Forty-year-old Andy Pettitte will return to the rotation after spending close to three months on the DL with a fractured left leg, a fluke injury suffered when Casey Kotchman hit him with a one-hop ground ball. He’ll be limited to 70-75 pitches after throwing just three simulated games and zero minor league rehab games, but returning tonight ensures that he’ll be able to make four regular season starts before the club potentially heads into the postseason. These four starts are essentially tune-up starts, which can be a scary thing in the middle of a pennant race.

Prior to the injury, Pettitte was arguably the team’s best pitcher. He owned a 3.22 ERA in nine starts (58.2 innings) with peripherals that made wolverines purr — 9.05 K/9 (25.2 K%), 2.30 BB/9 (6.4 BB%), and 58.3% grounders. That’s video game stuff. Andy was pitching better at age 40 and coming off a year-long retirement than he was during the prime of his career. Now is it reasonable to think he’ll maintain that performance after the injury? Almost certainly not. It’s entirely possible that he comes back as, well, an ineffective 40-year-old who sat out a year and missed an additional ten weeks with injury. I have a hard time betting against Pettitte, though stranger things have happened.

Anyway, an added benefit to getting Andy back in the rotation is that it pushes David Phelps into a relief role. Phelps didn’t pitch all that well in his latest stint as a starter (5.01 ERA and 5.20 FIP in 32.1 innings), though most of that damage was the result of two subpar outings against the Orioles. We already saw the 25-year-old get some big seventh inning outs in relief on Sunday, and now he’ll be able to take some of the load off Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Boone Logan, and the other middle guys leading up to Rafael Soriano. If Joe Girardi takes advantage of Phelps’ ability to throw multiple innings out of the bullpen, the Yankees will be even better off.

Good or bad, Pettitte returns to the rotation tonight. The club may have rushed him back from his injury and they may suffer for it, but at the same time they didn’t have much choice. The rotation had been struggling in recent weeks and the Yankees have welcome two starters back from injury in the last four days. I’ll be happy to watch Pettitte on the mound against the Blue Jays this evening just because hey, it’s Andy Pettitte, but I’ll be even happier if he proves to be the pitching boost we all hope he can be.

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Randy Levine talks to MLB.com's Barry Bloom
9/18-9/20 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
  • Better off Eddard

    I would never bet against Andy. And the rotation(minus one starter) has been much better during this 4 out of 5 run. If Andy can get to full strength he’ll be the best #3 starter in the playoffs.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      +1

      Don’t turn into a -1 later, Eddard. :)

  • gc

    “I’ll be happy to watch Pettitte on the mound against the Blue Jays this evening just because hey, it’s Andy Pettitte, but I’ll be even happier if he proves to be the pitching boost we all hope he can be.”

    I’ll be even MORE happy if the game doesn’t get rained out and we can actually watch Andy pitch tonight! :)

  • Nice Scheister

    Expect some bunts and some patience at the plate since they know Andy’s ailment and his pitch count. With that said, get em Andy! Welcome back, again, we missed you!

    • MannyGeee

      Bunts and patience are not really Toronto’s game… they will be looking for mistake pitches.

      if this were Baltimore or TB (or even a good Boston team), i would be worried about bunts and patience.

  • Deputy

    Excited that Andy is back and also excited that Phelps will improve the bullpen.

  • jjyank

    Welcome back Andy!

  • Gabe

    Welcome back Andy!

    Is it weird that I have more confidence in Andy than I do in CC? Andy battles each and every time and he never lets us down. Glad to have him back and hopefully he can pitch us into the postseason like he has many times before.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      and he never lets us down.

      Game 6, 2001 WS.

      Just sayin'; never is a pretty strong word.

      • dkidd

        he was tipping his pitches that night

        • Syrio Forel/Eddard/Occasional Troll

          and that’s not letting us down?

      • gc

        True. I love AP as much as the next fan, but he’s had his share of clunkers in the post-season as well. Everybody remembers game 5 of the ’96 WS as his real break-through game, but they forget how he got demolished in game 1. Then the Indians knocked him around a bit in the ’97 ALDS (and even more so in the ’98 ALCS). He pitched poorly in the ’99 WS against the Braves, and of course, the less said about the 2001 WS the better. Or the ’02 ALDS against Anaheim, for that matter.

        Obviously, the more opportunities you get to perform in the post-season, the more likely you’ll eventually throw a dud. Andy has pitched and won some HUGE games for the Yankees in his day, and he will always be a Yankee legend. But some people really gloss over those ugly moments as if they never happened. Still, I’m as happy as anyone that he’s back and I hope he can contribute at a high level. They really need him to!

    • Deep Thoughts

      Not weird, just poorly reasoned. Everything you say about Andy applies to CC as well.

  • CountryClub

    Tonight’s inevitable rainout will mean he only gets 3 starts before the playoffs begin. However, if the Yanks have to play a play in game, he would be lined up to start. That would be just fine by me.

    • MannyGeee

      this. I cant think of another Yankees starter in the past decade (not named CC Sabathia in 2011) that I would want pitching in a 1-game playoff other than Andy.

  • Joe

    If we were to replace our worst pitcher with Andy at the moment, it would be CC.

    Welcome back Andy!

    • Syrio Forel/Eddard/Occasional Troll

      it wouldnt be phelps or nova?

      • jjyank

        Ha I got a nice chuckle out of the handle.

      • Joe

        Probably Nova. But he just came back and his one start was good.

        Of course I’m not actually suggesting to take CC out. Unless this pain he’s going through will cause him problems next year.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      We’ll take “things that will never happen for a $100,” Joe. :)

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Quotation mark fail.

      • Joe

        Haha.

        I didn’t mean to actually DO it. I mean that CC has probably been our worst pitcher over the past month.

        Facts I have? None.

        Eye test? Yup.

        Am I right? Never!

        • Syrio Forel/Eddard/Occasional Troll

          even with the eye test, how is it possible someone has looked worse than nova over the past month or so? the guy got shelled start after start and then got injured. even without facts, how does he beat CC in the eye test?

          • Joe

            Eh I wasn’t really being completely serious. Nova been garbage other than in June, but his last start was good. That’s what I was basing it off of. Not the entire season.

            Obviously CC is the ace of the staff.

            Just forget I even said the comment above.

            • Syrio Forel/Eddard/Occasional Troll

              Just forget I even said the comment above

              i can’t……

              • Joe

                Trolololing me! haha.

  • LarryM., Fl.

    Andy has always given it his all and working up to the 75 pitch range should give some command of his pitches. I would thing Joe G. would error on the soft side of 75 to secure a positive start from Andy as opposed to letting get an extra batter or two.

    Go Andy/Yankees

  • Robinson Tilapia

    GO ANDY!

  • Nathan

    Andy/Nova > Garcia/Phelps

  • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Kramerica Industries

    I’m not expecting sharp Andy tonight. Hopefully solid enough that the offense can produce a W.

  • DC

    Welcome back Andy!

  • OMG! Bagels!

    Please be okay Andy. Please please please please please please.

  • forensic

    I know you constantly fake the real stats of what pitchers have allowed, but why are so many people saying Nova gave up one run when it was actually two? I know the bullpen helped, but you don’t pick and choose which stats to change the calculation and rules of.