(Long Island, N.Y.) When the Yankees announced that Andy Pettitte was coming out of retirement and eventually going to be a part of the rotation, there were certainly some doubters. At 39 years of age and out of action since 2010, it appeared to be somewhat of a reach and perhaps more of a nostalgic move than a pure baseball one.
But that all changed with the eight-inning, nine-strikeout shutout performance on Friday night versus Cincinnati at Yankee Stadium. The lefthander earned his first victory in 22 months and dominated the Reds, who qualified for the postseason a year ago. After the game, Pettitte reflected on the big picture, rather than personal accomplishments.
“I didn’t come back to not help us win,” he said to reporters. “I just feel like I’m doing my job.”
In only his second major league start after some tune-ups down in the minor leagues, Pettitte (1-1) looks to be in mid-season form and will be a big boost for the team. The organization and fans adore him and his confidence level is very high right now.
“I feel like I can do this,” Pettitte continued. “I took a long time to come to this decision, to come back. I waited until I threw my bullpens and felt like I could do this. I feel the mind is getting back there, and for me, I’m just hoping and praying the body holds up.”
Any player that is nearly 40 will have those types of concerns, especially pitchers. In his prior season, Pettitte started only 21 games after five consecutive years with 30 or more starts. The 16-year veteran has only had less than 30 in three campaigns, so staying healthy has been something attained for the most part.
As has collecting some extremely impressive hardware/accolades, such as five World Series rings, the 2001 ALCS MVP Award, three All-Star Game nominations, as well as leading the league in wins (21 in 1996) once and starts three times (35 in 1997, 25 in 2006 and 34 in 2007).
When the money is on the line, that’s when Pettitte bears down and shines the most. Over his postseason career, he is 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 42 starts, striking out 173 batters and only walking 72. During the Yankees’ last World Series appearance in 2009, Pettitte went 2-0 against the Philadelphia Phillies and was a major reason why the franchise collected their sports-leading 27th championship.
Before Spring Training began, the Yankees had figured on new acquisition Michael Pineda taking the ball every fourth day. But a season-ending injury put the former Seattle Mariner on the shelf and, coupled with the struggles of veteran Freddy Garcia, what was a surplus of starting pitching suddenly became a need. Enter Andy Pettitte, and he has settled in as number four on the depth chart.
With the inconsistencies of Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda, it shouldn’t be too long before Pettitte moves up to the number two starter behind staff ace CC Sabathia.
Quite a difference from just a signing to remember some good old times together.