Keeping Pettitte healthy a must for rest of 2013

(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees welcomed Andy Pettitte back to the rotation last night after he missed 18 days with a strained trap muscle. It was the first time he had to be placed on the DL this year but the second time he had to miss starts — a stiff lower back sidelined him for more than a week back in April. Rainouts and off-days allowed the Yankees to skip his turn without much of a problem early in the season.

Less than two weeks away from his 41st birthday, Pettitte is the oldest regular starter in the big leagues by almost one full year — former Yankee Bartolo Colon won’t turn 41 until next May. With age comes injury concerns, and not just the increased risk of getting hurt. It takes older players a longer time to recover as well. In an effort to stay healthier, Andy has considered modifying his between-starts routine a bit.

“He’s talked about backing off a little bit,” said Joe Girardi to Dan Martin over the weekend. “But it’s hard when you’re a creature of habit. When you’ve had as much success as he’s had, it’s hard to change what you do, but I think it’s important that he does it.”

Pettitte usually throws two bullpen sessions between starts, which is something he would look to change. That said, he is concerned about how it would affect him on the mound every five days. He might feel stronger physically, but it could come at the expense of losing rhythm and feel for pitches. That would be very bad since he’s a finesse pitcher.

“Truthfully, I don’t know,” said Andy when asked how he would react to changing his routine. “I’m used to doing two bullpens. We’ll just how it goes … I know what I’ve got to do mentally to prepare for this game and I understand where they’re coming from, of course, because of my age and how much time it takes and the adjustments you have to make as you get older.”

Regardless of how they do it, one of the Yankees’ top priorities for the rest of the season should be keeping Pettitte healthy and in the rotation. If that means cutting back to one bullpen between starts or even limiting him to 90-100 pitches per start instead of 100-110, so be it. The team lives and dies with its pitching, and Andy is one of their three best at worst. Obviously keeping him on the field is much easier said than done regardless of his age.

Hiroki Kuroda, the third oldest starter in the big leagues at 38, modified his offseason routine in an effort to stay fresh deeper into the season after hitting a wall last September. I don’t know if Pettitte did anything differently this winter, but he’s clearly thinking about doing something differently during the season. As good as Vidal Nuno looked in his three spot starts, Andy is the guy the Yankees want in their rotation right now and they need him to stop missing starts every month. He’s too vital to the team’s success to be a 20-22 start guy than a 30-32 start guy.

Categories : Pitching
  • Robinson Tilapia

    Nothing is a “must.” They need to get effective starting pitching from his slot, no matter who it comes from.

    I also think Andy’s going to miss more starts as the season progresses, and probably will be closer to 20-22 than 30-32. It’s the risk the team, and Andy, took in order to squeeze as much “good Andy” out of his 40 year-old body as is left.

    • whozat

      The only realistic way they get effective starting pitching from the third slot in the rotation is with Andy staying healthy, given the dearth of useful players to trade, the price of starting pitching, and the lack of any arms in the high minors with upside.

      If it is a must to get good, consistent pitching from that rotation slot, then keeping Andy healthy is a must.

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        Exactly right unless you’re delusional and think Phelps, Hughes or Nova can pitch like a #3 for an extended period of time.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Disagree completely. It is entirely possible to mix and match your way through the starts he may miss from hear on out. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it probable? I wouldn’t necessarily put money on it. A “must?” Nothing is a must.

        The flipside of this, of course, is that people are insisting that keeping a 40 year-old pitcher, returning from a year off, who’s missed about as much time as he’s been on the mound since, healthy is a “must.” Granted, the first injury wasn’t related to his age, but he still wasn’t there. If that’s the “must,” then I have some sobering news for folks here.

    • RetroRob

      I hoped he could give 24-27 starts and in the 150+ inning range. I still think he can do that, but it’s also why teams need 6th and 7th starters, especially with an older rotation.

      I expect Andy to be solid the rest of the way, but I expect he’ll miss more starts, too. They need to plan for it.

      And, yes, welcome him back next year if that is his desire!

  • Andy Hart

    Just hope he makes his next two scheduled starts so I can see him pitch when I come to New York on the 18th. First time I came in 05 he was with Houston then in 011 he had retired this will be my last chance to see a Yankee legend!

  • trr

    Would love to keep Andy healthy, but at 41, it’s time to recognize the end is very near. This year has been a mixed bag so far. Last night’s start was unimpressive. His biggest value to the team would be in the playoffs, hope we make it that far

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      In a perfect world, he would pull a Clemens and start pitching around July to try and stay fresh and healthy for the playoffs but the 2013 Yankees aren’t good enough for that strategy.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’d have a hard time showing Andy the door, but I don’t think this team should be in a position in which it counts on him to be their third-best starter next year. Hell, I didn’t think that LAST year.

      If I were Andy, though? I’m not sure I’d be happy with what I was seeing from myself in this comeback.

      • trr

        I’m certainly not pushing him out the door, but we need to be realistic…

        • trr

          And yes, IMO Andy will retire for good after this year if things don’t improve

      • The Real Me

        If I were Andy, I’m not sure i’d be happy with what I was feeling in this comeback. I think how he physically feels will play a larger role in his decision for 2014 that what the results are (unless he feels fine and can’t perform at all).

      • RetroRob

        I would be fine if Andy comes back next year, obviously depending on how he pitches the rest of the way. A broken bone on a line drive last year was a fluke. What’s been happening this year is most likely age related, but a team needs to factor that in.

        Slot Andy in for 25 starts, know that he’s not the 34 starts, 220 inning pitcher any more, but cand still be a quality starter. I think a #3 should be durable, so he may pitch like a #3, and even 2 and a 1 for stretches, but he just doesn’t seem to be as durable. Factor that in, but totally bring him back.

        If these injuries continue, though, my guess is Pettitte will hang ‘em up.

  • LarryM Fl

    Keeping Andy healthy is probably easier than keeping Andy happy. His ingrained work ethic needs to be adapted to his body. I use no age because we are all different. So what ever keeps him strong. This may take a few tries at a change but I’m sure it can be done. As we get older flexibility is key. So its not just about strength. Get as many starts from Andy as possible during the season. We must make it to the playoffs before there is a concern on a playoff rotation. If Andy has to take a week off here or there. We have Nuno, Nova maybe Pineda. All good teams use 7 to 9 starters a season.

    In the nut shell revamp the in between workouts and take every start one at a time.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      Waldman and Sterling said on air yesterday that Pettitte has already cut back to 1 BP session between starts instead of his typical 2. Not sure if they’re accurate of not though.

      • Get Phelps Up

        Kay said the same thing, IIRC.

  • Virginia Yankee

    It seems to me that he may be better off keeping his regular routine, only reducing the amount of work he does in his between start bullpens.

  • LarryM Fl

    I agree. Throw enough to keep feel for his pitches then shut down. Its all a learning game just not much time to educate.

  • Dalek Jeter

    I’m more of R-Till’s mind set than your’s Mike. I understand this team is at it’s best when Andy is healthy and starting regularly, however with his age and his back’s new found brittleness I think Andy is probably at his best if he just isn’t pitching as much. I’d rather Andy be at 100% come September and hopefully October than in July, if that means him missing a start here or there and only making 20 or so more starts the rest of the season, then so be it. I think we can patch together the other 6 or 7 with Nuno, Warren, Pineda, et al.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      It’s not even a strong point of view on my part. If you tell me something is a “must,” I’m more than likely going to argue the opposite.

      • Pat D

        I must eat healthier or I’ll die young.

        Argue the opposite of that!


        • The Real Me

          There are plenty of people that don’t eat healthy, drink too much and smoke that live long and healthy lives. You may be one of them. So there.

          • MannyGeee

            Try as you might Suzyn, you can’t predict baseball genetics

  • MannyGeee

    What happens if instead of him cutting down to one session, he just shortened his two sessions.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Global meltdown. Complete.

      Just never mention that again, for God’s sake. Be gone.

    • Electric Nunez ll

      You’re afraid of taking your innovative pitching regimen to the next level. Instead, let’s be creative and try and speculate:

      So, what happens if he throws ten-pitch sessions every day that he isn’t starting?

      Gotta think outside the padded cell every once in a while…

  • Hassey

    This is nothing that a well timed needle can’t solve…or just say the special creme in his locker is suntan lotion

  • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

    Guys, give him a second start back from injury before we start shovelling the dirt. He ran out of gas at around 70. That’s not completely shocking. He may even run out of gas at 90 vs. Seattle. Just give it a couple starts before we’re ready to say we have concerns. It’s not impossible that he’s perfectly healthy for the remainder of the season.

    • RetroRob

      Yeah, really.

      Andy will be fine.

  • Mike Rauth

    If any of the “prospects” panned out like they were hyped up to be (Bettances, Banuelos, Pineda, Nova) Yankees would not have to rely on a 40 year old pitcher.

    • JerryJRC

      You TROLL! They have Phelps, Nova and Pineda after ASB if all goes well with his rehab

      • Mike Rauth

        The same Phelps that got ripped by the Mets?

      • Mike Rauth

        The same Nova that lost his job to Phelps and is in AAA?

      • Mike Rauth

        In six starts this season, Phelps is 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA. In 33 1/3 innings, he’s allowed 31 hits and 17 runs, walked 12 and struck out 28.