Andy Pettitte thinks he’s ready to challenge major league hitters again
After his shaky five-inning stint at Triple-A this past Sunday, Andy Pettitte may have declared his readiness to return to the major leagues, but opposing hitters shouldn’t necessarily run for cover.
The prevailing observation during most of Pettitte’s outing for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, held against the Pawtucket Red Sox at the team’s unofficial 2012 “home away from home” at Frontier Field, was that the 39-year old lefthander was nowhere near ready to face major league competition.
That view, however, is not held by the most important parties to Pettitte’s comeback from a one-year retirement: the New York Yankees organization and Pettitte himself.
The informal goal, established when Pettitte re-signed with New York, was for him to be in the majors by mid-May. And it seems like regardless of his struggles one level away from the big leagues, he probably couldn’t do much worse than the majority of the New York Yankees’ current shambolic rotation, which sported a 5.55 earned run average after Sunday (6.07 when excluding ace CC Sabathia).
“There is no reason to try to rush,” Pettitte said. “This is difficult, what I’m trying to do. I won’t go out there and throw complete game shutouts. I know this is not going to be an easy task. It never has been for me.”
Pettitte, the veteran of 489 major league appearances, remained upbeat Sunday, perhaps drawing upon the fact that he retired the final six batters he faced. As good as that was, it doesn’t make up for allowing hits to the game’s first four batters and having the leadoff batter reach in his first four innings.
“I wished I could have pitched a little bit better. … I felt like it was a positive step,” Pettitte stressed. “It’s good to get into trouble and work my way out of trouble. Just going through what you have to go through to get game ready.”
Granted, Pettitte’s velocity wasn’t too far off his usual (i.e., pre-retirement) levels. And his pickoff to end the first inning was vintage. Pettitte lamented that he didn’t have good command of his off-speed pitches. That difficulty led to 11 of 24 batters reaching base.
“He was scattered a little bit with his pitches. He didn’t have his best command,” observed Scranton pitching coach Scott Aldred. “Things are likely to change when he gets to New York. I’ve seen guys who pitch in minor league games on rehab assignments and you think they’re not ready, but they have a track record of doing it on the big stage.”
While it wouldn’t be a total shock to see Pettitte step up when it mattered most, I get the nagging feeling that his return to the majors will be closer in form to the inconsistent performance we saw Sunday.
Give Yankees general manager Brian Cashman credit for trying something to improve a battered rotation. But after recent failed attempts to reclaim some magic out of older arms (Javier Vazquez and Bartolo Colon, anyone?), I’m not sold on the Yankees’ solution being in the form of another aging pitcher who just finished counting a year’s worth of retirement days.
Ready or not, indeed.
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