Fact is, Andy Pettitte’s minor league results haven’t been particularly inspiring. He was good during his early starts in Tampa, but as his pitch count grew, he was knocked around a little bit. Last time out he allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits through five innings in Triple-A, but the Yankees believe they’ve seen enough.
After one more turn through the rotation — leaving all options open for a corresponding move — Pettitte will return to the big league rotation for Sunday’s series finale against the Mariners.
“At some point, you make a call,” Brian Cashman said. “Especially with veterans, it’s kind of difficult. You’ve seen as you go through the process, there’s only so much you’re going to see at a certain level. It’s not necessarily always performance-related. You have to see stuff, you have to see a lot of different things (including) endurance. Sometimes it’s hard to judge on the results. You’ve seen it at minor-league camp during spring training. They send a guy across the street, you think they’re going to dominate a Double-A team or something like that, and they get whacked. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, how does this guy get whacked against a bunch of minor leaguers?’ The intensity, the adrenaline, the focus, it’s all a little bit different. It’s not that someone’s not trying, but it’s just not the same.”
Basically, the Yankees believe Pettitte is as ready as he’s going to get. Cashman acknowledged that there’s another step to take, but he said that will have to come at the major-league level. That said, Cashman said he wouldn’t have made this decision if internal reports weren’t positive.
“There’s still the unknown,” Cashman said. “There’s a gap between what the old Andy Pettitte is and what we’re going to get, I just don’t know yet (what it is). We’re looking forward to adding another healthy arm to the mix here because our depth has been challenged and some of our healthy starters have been inconsistent.”
As for the timing, Pettitte would have been on normal rest for Friday, but the Yankees are going to let every starter make one more start before inserting Pettitte into the mix. That means they could take anyone out of the rotation to open a spot. Ivan Nova starts tonight’s game — Sunday would be his normal day — and David Phelps pitches tomorrow. Phil Hughes will pitch Saturday.
“I’m not saying that anyone’s turn in this rotation is going to determine if they’re in the rotation as we go further,” Girardi said. “I’m not saying that. We have guys that we want to go out and pitch very well, and we’ll make a decision on Sunday who we’re going to take out.”
For now, the only definite decision is who’s stepping in. Pettitte is coming back, and he’ll be here on Sunday.
“I think all of us probably kind of expect that we’re going to see Andy Pettite, what we’re used to seeing,” Girardi said. “A guy that grinds out starts. That has the ability to get double plays. That doesn’t panic out there. I think you can only go back on what you’ve seen from him. It’s not like he’s trying to reinvent himself. I think his stuff is going to be pretty similar to what he had when he walked away in 2010. That’s kind of what I feel. Will I be right? I hope so, but we’ll find out.”
• Cashman was coy in confirming a report that Mariano Rivera encountered some sort of complication when his knee was evaluated yesterday. “It’s something I think Mo can talk to you about when he gets here (tomorrow),” Cashman said.
• Although he wouldn’t give details, Cashman said the complication with Rivera has no impact on his ability to pitch next season. Sounds like, though this is nothing more than a guess, that Rivera discovered some other problem that basically wipes out any slim chance of returning this season. “What he’s got is correctable,” Cashman said. “At a date yet to be scheduled, they’ll have surgery and fix it. He’ll go through the rehab process and we’ll have the player next year.”
• Waiting this long to have ACL surgery is not unusual. “You never see one take place immediately,” Cashman explained. “Usually a week to 10 days after they get the inflammation out, so it’s currently standard procedure on that aspect. He wouldn’t be having surgery by now.”
• Cashman said he has not made a single call trying to trade for a reliever in the wake of Rivera’s injury.
• Pettitte won’t join the team immediately. He can come here to throw bullpens, but he’s not allowed to be a full-time part of the clubhouse until he’s actually on the roster. Cashman said Pettitte will stay at his home in Westchester and will probably workout in White Plains. He’s expected to throw two bullpens between now and Sunday. “He knows exactly what he needs to do to get it done,” Cashman said. “That’s not the issue.”
• Assuming the Yankees dump a starter into the bullpen when Pettitte is activated, Girardi explained that he didn’t want to make that move right away because it would have left the team thin in the bullpen for a few days. That’s part of the reason for letting the rotation go a full turn before adding Pettitte. It lets them keep a full bullpen throughout.
• Brett Gardner will play only one game of today’s Triple-A double header. It’s almost certain he’ll need to play at least one more game and won’t be ready to join the Yankees tomorrow. “I doubt it, but we’ll see,” Girardi said. “We’ll see how he feels as he goes through it.”
• Eric Chavez has to go through some standard concussion tests, but if he comes through those with no problems, he should be back with the team on Thursday.
• Girardi on giving Eduardo Nunez another start in left field: “I wouldn’t put him out there if I didn’t think he could do the job. Nuney’s had a lot of plays out there, and he’s made some good plays as well. I know he had the one play that he misjudged a little bit, but he went back on some balls very well, eh had some tough line drives, he went and ran a ball in the gap, so I feel good about Nuney out there.”
• Craig Tatum has been placed on the Triple-A disabled list. Gustavo Molina was called up from Trenton to replace him on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster.
Associated Press photos