Saturday, March 17, 2012

Andy Pettitte returns to Yankees

Here is story right out of left field.

The New York Yankees are set to welcome back Andy Pettitte to the team after both sides agreed to a one year $2.5 million deal. The flirtation to have Pettitte return has been going on for several months according to multiple reports.

Back in December Brian Cashman spoke with Pettitte about a possible return, and offered him a shocking $10-12 million, according to ESPN. What in the name of George M. Steinbrenner was Cashman thinking there? $10-12 million for a pitcher who hasn't pitched in well over a year?

Pettitte declined Cashman's offer, and the Yankees went ahead a traded for Michael Pineda and signed Hiroki Kuroda. In February Pettitte called Cashman into Joe Girardi's office after Pettitte was invited to spring training as a special instructor. What Cashman apparently didn't know was that Pettitte was working out.

The Yankees watched Pettitte slowly throw on this side, and coupled with their sudden rotation concerns with Freddy Garcia out with a bruised wrist, the organization's lack of confidence in Phil Hughes and Michael Pinenda's apparent velocity struggles, the Yankees decided to go all out on Pettitte.

The question remains though, why? Why would Pettitte want to come back now after a whole year off? He's 39 years old, picking up a baseball and trying to throw it 88 to 90 mph is not as easy as it used to be. Pettitte also prided himself as a family man, and the reason he retired before the 2011 season was to return home to be with his wife and kids, thus making his decision to return all the more curious.

It's anyone's guess how much Pettitte has left in the tank. While he may have the itch to pitch, how his body reacts to throwing 90 pitches is another thing. Many players have had the "itch" to come back and play, but physically, they are unable to do it. Pettitte is healthy, but the last time we saw him on a major league mound, he missed a better part of the second half of the 2010 season with injuries, a season that got off to a great start with an 11-3 record and a 3.28 ERA but ended abruptly, so too did a career ... or so we thought. 

The Yankees rotation, which looked set in stone about a month ago, is now in flux. Pinenda's fastball has topped out at 92, far below what the Yankees thought they were getting when the traded their top catching prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle to acquire Pineda. If Pineda is injured, or if his velocity is rapidly on the decline, makes it look like the Bombers were sold a lemon.

Plus, the Yankees have never believed in Hughes. Hughes has struggled with his control, injuries and his weight in recent years. This spring Hughes has pitched well. In 8 1/3 innings he has a 1.08 ERA, but is it enough to earn and keep the number five spot in the rotation?

 Pettitte likely won't be ready to return to the Yankees, if his arm doesn't fall off first, until May at the earliest. That means Hughes will have exactly one month to impress the Yankees when it counts in the regular season. If Hughes pitches great, he could be safe, and the pressure will be on Kuroda, who is always inconsistent, and Pineda if he doesn't pick up his velocity and control. However, I find it hard to believe that the Yankees will relegate Pineda to the bullpen or minors even if he struggles because New York invested so much in him.

As for Freddy Garcia, he can forget about being a Yankee. Garcia is out for the foreseeable future until the bump on his hand cools down and is re-examined at a later date. He will likely start the season in the minor leagues and battle with Pettitte for a call-up should the Yankees lose faith in Hughes. In all likelihood the Yankees would give the nod to Pettitte, not Garcia, based on Pettitte's storied history with the Yankees.

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