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Pettitte Will Help, But He is No Savior

By Jed Weisberger ~ April 26th, 2012. Filed under: Digest Contributors, New York Yankees.

TRENTON, N.J. – Yankees fans, rightfully so, are a bit concerned about their favorite team’s starting rotation.

Yes, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia have been inconsistent. The injury to Michael Pineda throws another monkey wrench into the picture.

Help will be coming from veteran Andy Pettitte, but not immediately.  The 39-year-old,  who has made 479 regular-season starts, and won 240 regular-season games, threw 5-plus innings in Trenton for the Double-A Thunder Wednesday night, allowing four runs, three earned and took the loss in a 10-4 Eastern League win by the Erie Seawolves.

Pettitte threw 81 pitches, 59 for strikes, struck out three and walked one. The success of the outing came from the fact he went from 66 pitches in his last start, against Pittsburgh Extended Spring Training performers.  His fastball was in the 87-88 mph range.

By his own admission, however, Pettitte is hardly ready to pitch for the Yankees.

“I still have a lot of work to do,’’ he said. “I’ve got to get to 100 pitches, and I have to be able to “pop’ one in there when I need to.

“I was happy I got to near 85 pitches in this start, but as far as putting a “hump’ on my fastball when I need it, I’m not there yet.’’

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman stated Pettitte will need “a few more starts’’ before he can consider him for the Yankees rotation. To me, a few has always meant at least three.

“When we see everything is right with Andy, we’ll slot him in there,’’ said Cashman. “His strength and stamina need to get where they have to be. He’s healthy and feels good, but we still have to get to a certain level.’’

Cashman reiterated the Pineda injury adds no urgency to Pettitte’s situation.

“Andy still has to go through the steps,’’ said Cashman. “He’s between the quarter and halfway mark of spring training after 16 months of inactivity.  If I lost every starter in the Yankees rotation, I still wouldn’t put him in right now.

“He’s not ready.’’

Pettitte also realizes he will be 40 on June 15, and coming back after a year off is a challenge.

“I have to get my body used to a lot of things again, and I am almost 40. I’ll get this done, and help the Yankees, but I have to get myself to that level. Last year at home, I didn’t throw during the offseason the way I had before. I’m catching up on some things.’’

And when Pettitte does return to the Yankees, don’t expect him to throw complete-game shutouts.

“I’m not that kind of pitcher,’’ he said. “Every game is a grind. I battle to keep our team in the game.’’

Cashman will decide within the next few days where Pettitte pitches next. The Thunder are on the road and the re-named 2012 Triple-A Empire State Yankees are an International League road club based in Rochester this season.

“Andy’s next start depends on how he feels, location, competition,’’ said Cashman. “We have to take a step back.’’

So does a mid- to late-May Yankees arrival for Pettitte seem realistic? It does.

Expect him to be ready to contribute at that time, but also temper your expectations.

Jed spent 35 years in the newspaper business working as both a writer and editor, in both sports and news under tight deadline pressure. As both sports editor at the Indiana (Pa.) Gazette and a copy editor/columnist at The Times of Trenton, he made daily decisions on overall coverage and designed and produced thousands of pages and special sections. Since accepting a buyout from The Times, he has concentrated on broadening his writing and editing horizons to the medical, academic and business fields. Anyone is welcome to Google Jed to see the different places in print, on the Web and in front of the camera his professional expertise has spread to.
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