Andy Pettitte built his legacy in the postseason, he came out of retirement because he wanted to pitch in the postseason again, and tonight he’ll try to become the first pitcher to ever reach 20 postseason wins. So, it’s worth asking, will success or failure this postseason determine whether Pettitte comes back next year?
“I don’t think so,” Pettitte said. “I’m not real sure. If we were able to go all the way, we’d have another month or so left, but I don’t think (that will be the determining factor). I just think it’s going to be a situation where you, again, just need to go home, see if I want to do this again. It’s great when the family is here, in the summer and my family is here and they’re running around, but it’s not great whenever they’re in Texas and I’m in New York, and it’s a long way back there. You know, it’s just going to be really a matter of if I feel like it’s something that I want to do again.
“I know one thing: I know the competition and the desire to compete is still there, and I don’t feel like I kind of got that itch out from the 70 innings or so that I threw this year. I was expecting to do a little bit more work than that. But we’ll see. We’ll see how this goes, and then I’ll factor everything probably in.”
This season wasn’t the return Pettitte was expecting. Even when that comebacker hit his ankle, Pettitte thought he’d miss four to six weeks. He wound up missing nearly three months, and even then, he had to rush back to get ready for the playoffs.
But here he is, pitching at the time of year that made him what he is. The first manager to ever put Pettitte in a postseason game was, conveniently, current Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
“This time of year, talent plays,” Showalter said. “He is talented, and that’s why he’s still capable of giving his team a chance to win is that he’s a talented young man. I felt at that time that Andy hadn’t had that much experience under his belt, but that wasn’t some astute evaluation to (not) start him. Those things are easy. I’m sure the Yankee fans and baseball in general feel fortunate to have been around to see Andy pass their way, because he’s a good father, good husband, good teammate, and a guy that it’s important to him to be consistent and be there. So that’ll be tough (tonight).”
The Orioles haven’t been to the postseason since 1997. Pettitte has 17 postseason wins since then. Is it an advantage?
“It depends how guys handle themselves out there, which is an unknown,” Pettitte said. “It’s all about being able to control yourself in the heat of the moment.”
The heat of the moment never bothered Pettitte. Even his low point in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series was followed by his brilliant start in Game 5, which Pettitte calls that his best postseason memory. At 40 years old, Pettitte is still a source of stability. The Yankees expect him to be as good as ever, and he’s given them no reason to think otherwise. What happens this winter is anyone’s guess — my guess: he’ll come back — but tonight, it’s just Pettitte doing what he does best.
“This is what I was hoping to have the opportunity to do,” he said.
Associated Press photo