Andy Pettitte’s return from retirement is easily the most surprising and significant news to come out of Yankees camp this spring. If you’re watching the team from the outside, it’s hard to find a negative. There’s no long-term risk, there’s the potential for Pettitte to be a big help, and an iconic Yankee is back in pinstripes. There’s a lot to like. Within the organization, though, the Pettitte signing means different things to different people.
If you’re in the Yankees front office… The only downside is money, and truth be told, $2.5 million isn’t much for a player as proven and popular as Pettitte. The move is a luxury, adding one more quality arm in a rotation that’s already overflowing. You can never have too much.
“It’s at a level of money where, this is Andy Pettitte,” Brian Cashman said. “How do you say no to that potential asset despite what you have? Does it complicate things? Yes. Does it diminish what we believe we have in this camp? No. Everything we believed in this camp before camp started, we still believe that. So, at the same time, it’s one of those things despite being deep and strong … why wouldn’t you take a chance at this opportunity at that level?”
If you’re a teammate who’s not in the rotation… This is an old friend coming back home. Pettitte has a track record in New York, and he’s only a year removed from pitching well at this level. He’s forever linked to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but he’s played with most of the key pieces of the Yankees roster. The signing has sparked legitimate excitement in that clubhouse.
“He’s just an icon,” Nick Swisher said. “He’s everything that you want to be in a ballplayer. Not only does he have the amazing career numbers that he’s had throughout his entire career, but he’s an amazing man. He’s a great father. He’s a great husband. All those amazing things that he has. That’s somebody you want to look up to for sure.”
If you’re one of the starters guaranteed a rotation spot… Pettitte is one more pitcher who might help this team win a championship. He’s not a threat, he’s just an additional piece of the puzzle. Hiroki Kuroda said he’s looking forward to learning from Pettitte, and CC Sabathia said he told Pettitte he should come back.
“As long as you can still play and feel like you’re not hurting the team, you want to go out and give it a try,” Sabathia said. “… Hopefully everybody steps their game up and makes it a tough decision (about who to keep in the rotation). We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Use that as a challenge to go out and make yourself better.”
If you’re fighting for a rotation spot… Pettitte is another guy who might take your job. Everyone in that clubhouse wants to win, but everyone in that clubhouse also wants to play, and everyone in that clubhouse believes he has the talent to make a difference. That’s not selfish, that’s just the nature of the game. Pettitte won’t break camp with the team, but he could be ready by early May, which means the rotation competition will continue beyond spring training.
“They know what I can do, and they know I can help the team,” Freddy Garcia said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s crazy, man. … I’ll be pitching here or wherever, but I know I’ll be pitching. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. If it’s here, if it’s not here, I’ll be pitching.”
If you’re a Triple-A starter hoping for a call-up… Pettitte is one more player who might keep a door from opening. David Phelps. Adam Warren. D.J. Mitchell. Dellin Betances. These four are still in big league camp, and they’ve all pitched well this season. They all have an eye on getting to New York this year.
“There’s really nothing that I can do about that,” Mitchell said. “It’s good for the Yankees that they get Andy Pettitte back, one of the greatest pitchers in Yankees history. For me, just keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’m not going to change anything because of that. I’m just going to go about my business and still see what happens. If I was pitching well enough, I still think I’ll be called up.”