11:53 am May. 14, 2012
Andy Pettitte took the mound for the New York Yankees on Sunday, with Michael Kay describing his return as "a necessity." It isn't, of course, nor is it guaranteed to work.
But Pettitte's 6 1/3 innings in a 6-2 loss were an indication that he'll provide the Yankees with the same caliber of pitching he has throughout his career, along with a number of warning signs.
Facing a Seattle team with little offensive punch, Pettitte, 39 and coming off a year away from baseball, gave up a pair of home runs.
Justin Smoak has struggled all season, while Casper Wells hit his first home run of the year. Pettitte also walked three while striking out just two.
So the results, taken on their own, don't suggest that Pettitte ought to knock Phil Hughes or David Phelps out of the rotation.
Still, Pettitte had the stamina to last into the seventh inning in his first start back, and some rust is to be expected. His velocity was right around the levels he reached when he last pitched with the Yankees--his fastball generally stayed between 87 and 89 miles per hour, while he averaged 89 in 2010. Pettitte said after the game that he expected to add some velocity as the year went on, and considering that he is roughly where other pitchers are on Opening Day, thanks to the late start of his season, that makes sense.
But despite what Michael Kay said at the outset of Sunday's broadcast, Pettitte, beloved as he is of the fans, is not a necessity. He'll be given every chance to work himself back into form, since no one expects that the Pettitte they saw yesterday was the finished product. As Pettitte himself said during his postgame press conference about breaking down a single start, “I’m nitpicking this one start because I know that’s what we’re here to do today.”
Still, Pettitte seems to have no doubt that he'll get there.
“I feel like I’ll be able to say if this was a success or not in October,” Pettitte said.
Now that he's back in the rotation, Pettitte's going to need to pitch well in May, June and July if he wants that October measuring stick. The fans who gave him that rousing ovation as he left, trailing 4-1, know him well enough to expect nothing less.