From a results standpoint, Andy Pettitte’s return didn’t end as he’d hoped. He pitched 6 1/3 sometimes good, sometimes shaky innings in a 6-2 loss to the Mariners on Sunday. But other fears — things that were to be expected for a 39-year old pitching for the first time in 19 months, things like swirling emotions, rust and decreased velocity — were nonexistent.
Once the game started, Pettitte fell into a familiar rhythm. His manager and teammates who were here in 2010 were caught up, too, welcoming back an old friend as if this was just another day at the park.
“To me, it looked like he hadn’t missed a beat,” Joe Girardi said.
That’s not to say Pettitte was perfect. He was decidedly imperfect and admitted so, particularly on a cutter to Justin Smoak in the fourth that caught too much plate and ended up in the left field stands. But he said a lack of command with his four-seam fastball took away the effectiveness of his cutter.
Pettitte also left with the belief he’ll regain that command as well some velocity. He already hit between 87 and 89 on the gun, but he expects to have more as he progresses deeper into the season.
Amidst nearly 20 minutes of questions and answers breaking down this one start, Pettitte was asked if he worried the sharpness and velocity might never return after so long away from the mound. Again, he said today wasn’t any different from a start in May or October of 2010.
He was simply playing along.
“I’m nitpicking this one start because I know that’s what we’re here to do today,” Pettitte said.
He knew this wasn’t a regular day. It just felt like it to him.
• The money quote from Pettitte’s postgame? There were a few. But Yankee fans will like this one most. He was asked about whether or not the return has been a success, but, as a late 90s Yankee, he figured it was far too soon to judge that.
“I feel like I’ll be able to say if this was a success or not in October,” he said.
• According to Elias, Pettitte became the oldest player to appear in a game with the Yankees after not playing in the Majors the previous season since Bert Campaneris did at 41 in 1983.
• Russell Martin caught Pettitte in a real game for the first time today. Martin called for some off-speed stuff in the sixth and Pettitte shook him off. He later regretted it, knowing that mixing up his pitches could’ve led to an earlier escape.
• Girardi said the club will have a better gauge on Pettitte after it watches him recover for subsequent starts. He pitched on extra rest today, but will start again in five days.
• Girardi said he will not drop Mark Teixeira in the order despite the first baseman’s season-long struggles. He went 1 for 4 today, including a strike out with the bases loaded in the eighth and the Yankees down just 4-2. Even his hit only traveled about 50 feet.
“I’m going to leave him there,” Girardi said, noting that Tex’s 17 RBI are still good for fourth on the team.
• Teixeira hasn’t led his lack of hitting impact his defense. He turned a key double play in the sixth to help Pettitte escape a bases loaded jam in the sixth.
Of course, the Yankees grounded into three double plays of their own, including two by Derek Jeter. They were rendered ineffective by Kevin Millwood, who pitched seven strong innings to win his first of the year after entering 0-4 with a 5.88 ERA.
“He’s pitched a lot better than his numbers indicate,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s had a few bad innings, but he pitched a big ballgame for us. I thought he was outstanding today.”
• We’re accustomed to final lines on pitchers, but here’s the final line on Jesus Montero in his return to Yankee Stadium: 2 for 10, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K. He caught two games and the Yankees were 1 for 1 on stolen base attempts.
• Jeter went 1 for 4, recording career hit No. 3,142. He passed Tony Gwynn and tied Robin Yount for 16th place on MLB’s all-time hit list.
• Curtis Granderson played in his 1,000th game today and is one of 10 Yankees on the active roster (or DL) with at least 1,000 games played.
• Nick Swisher snapped a career-long 0-for-21 skid with runners on base with a fifth-inning single.
• Robinson Cano went 0 for 3 and had his 10-game hitting streak snapped.
• Final line on Yankee starters this homestand: 40.2 IP, 4-1, 1.99 ERA, 35 H, 9 ER, 14 BB, 29 K.