The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Archive for September, 2013

Pregame notes: “There’s a lot of work to be done”09.29.13

Mariano Rivera

The final day of an unusual season. In some ways, the events of the past few days — Mariano Rivera’s emotional farewell, Andy Pettitte’s complete game finale — have actually give this disappointing season a sort of happy ending, but today is back to the reality of missing the playoffs and a ton of uncertainty moving forward.

“There’s a lot of emotions that go through a day like this,” Giradi said. “The disappointment of not getting where we want. The sadness of seeing two Yankee greats leave and walk away. Extremely happy with the way they were able to go out. The only thing better would have been in the World Series. But there’s a lot of work to be done, and a lot of things that we were able to do this year. Saw a lot of good things. We saw a lot of players step up. A number of times that people thought we were out of it, we seemed to find a way to come back. Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to get into playing next week.”

Robinson Cano isn’t playing today, which means he might have already taken his final Yankees at-bat. It seems likely that a series of secondary pitchers, beginning with David Huff, will handle the duties on the mound. Curtis Granderson, Brendan Ryan, Travis Hafner and Mark Reynolds are in the lineup before reaching free agency. Mariano Rivera has said he doesn’t want to pitch or play center field today.

Girardi said it’s those farewell moments that he expects to most remember about this season, but there’s also this:

“The two things that really stick out in my mind about this year,” Girardi said. “When Vern came here, he probably never imagined that he’d play third, second and first. And Luis Cruz, they wouldn’t let in the building because they didn’t know he was on our team. Those are the two things that really stick out which kind of tell me what kind of year it has been around here.”

It’s the final day of a long and disappointing season, so the Yankees will play out the next nine innings and then begin finding out what’s next.

“I don’t know if I would call it (a transitional offseason),” Girardi said. “But I see it as a year where there’s probably more areas to address than there has been in a long time just because of people retiring, other situations that we’re dealing with, players at the end of their contracts. There’s a lot to be done in the offseason, but the Yankees front office has always done a wonderful job, and they’ll work at getting it done the right way.”

Joe Girardi• Girardi addressed his own free agency, saying he expects to make a decision fairly soon about whether to come back to the Yankees. The team has certainly made it seem as though it’s interested in bringing Girardi back, and Girardi has expressed interest in coming back. “It comes down to family,” Girardi said. “They are first, and whatever is best for group of us – not one individual, not me or just my wife or just one of my children – whatever it best for us as a group, that’s what we’ll decide to do. And that’s something I’ve put some thought into and I’m going to have to think about a lot of the next few days obviously. But that’s a decision that we’ll sit down and make and decide what’s best.”

• Interestingly, Girardi downplayed his connections to Chicago — amid some speculation that he might want the Cubs job — but very much opened the idea of going back into broadcasting because it would let him stay home and see his kids more often. “It doesn’t even necessarily have to be in baseball, in a sense,” Girardi said. “It’s just, as I said, it’s not so much the (managerial) circumstances, but what’s best for my crew.”

• The Astros are going to honor Rivera pregame. Joe Torre is here, and apparently Roger Clemens is going to be a part of the ceremony as well.

Girardi said he doesn’t know just how much Rivera was hurting at the end of the season, but he believes Rivera would have been available to pitch if the team had advanced to the postseason. “I didn’t know until Thursday (that he was hurting),” Girardi said. “That’s just who he is. He was going to do everything in his power to help us get to where we wanted to go.”

• Player manager for this game? “I’ll ask,” Girardi said. “I was thinking about asking Mo if he wanted to do it, or Andy, if they wanted to do it. I was thinking about asking guys if they want to do it. My guess is they may not want to, but we’ll see.”

• Just making some random small talk with Brendan Ryan before the game, he expressed some interest in possibly coming back to the Yankees next year, but acknowledged that it’s tough to know what the team might do about its infield situation. Bizarre to have such uncertainty at third base, second base and shortstop.

Associated Press photos

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Cano sits for season finale09.29.13

Eduardo Nunez 3B
J.R. Murphy C
Curtis Granderson CF
Vernon Wells LF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Travis Hafner DH
David Adams 2B
Brendan Ryan SS
Zoilo Almonte RF

LHP David Huff

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Video: Pettitte reflects on his remarkable career finale09.29.13

Taboola Home/Section Front Player

To start this final day of the season, here’s a little more Andy Pettitte after his brilliant farewell performance.

Andy PettitteFeel good that you don’t have to be hard on yourself about this one?
“That’s a good feeling. The last thing I wanted to do was be in here saying, ‘Man, I hung a slider! Game-tying home run! Can you believe this?’ And have to live the rest of my life with that one. I’m hard on myself, and I hate it that I’m like I am and built the way I am, because sit in here and tell all the other guys around me, ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself, you pitched a great game. Think about the positives.’ But I feel like I feed off the negative a little bit sometimes as far as in my pitching, so I’m very thankful that there was no regrets in this one as far as pitch selection.”

How do you want to be remembered?
“I hope people remember me, and I know that my team will, I hope I was just a positive influence on people. I hope that I pushed people toward Jesus and tried to be as positive as I possibly could for everybody that surrounded me on these fields and stuff. And I hope that people look at me as somebody who went out there and gave it my all. I worked my tail off, played this game as hard as I could. I feel like I’ve milked every ounce of talent out of this body that God gave me. Never a hard thrower. I don’t really feel like I was ever a guy who had great stuff. Never able to strike out a lot of guys. Just kind of feel like I gritted and willed my way through games. I thank the Lord for giving me that ability and putting it inside me to be able to focus and get locked in and be able to relax and make pitches out there when I had to.”

Think about farewell moments like this when you came back?
“I didn’t think about that when I came back. It was more like, after I came back and I knew I was going to retire at the end of this year, and then whenever I started talking to some of the guys over a couple of months and they knew I was going to retire, and they were saying, you need to say something. And of course, I didn’t want to take any attention away from Mo or take attention away from the games or anything like that. I’m so thankful I did. That was one thing I regretted was that I never got to say goodbye to the fans. Obviously the 15 years in New York, but then the three years here and how great they were here and how great of a club we had here and stuff like that. It’s almost, for me now, just as important here. To finish it up here was absolutely incredible.”

Andy Pettitte, Chris StewartFocused strictly on the task at hand, or reflecting at all during the game?
“I was. The whole day was hard. Just because everybody, before the game, I felt like guys were a little bit more around me than normal, and we were talking about stuff, and what a great run it’s been. So, it’s absolutely crazy. I found myself already getting emotional before the game, and I was like, this is not good. I mean It’s not good. And then during the game, underneath the tunnel, Guys just hanging down there and stuff like that, because I was sitting down underneath in between innings. I found myself an awful lot thinking about everything. It was awesome.”

Did it really feel like a postseason game?
“It was. The guys in the dugout were battling. I felt like we had to grind to score the runs that we did. It definitely felt like that, I felt like that as far as with my focus. The way the game was playing out, you know that one mistake could seriously cost you. And obviously I’ve pitched here, so I know that one mistake can really cost you, especially with that short porch in left field. It was, it was a big game. You’re trying to make pitches. My focus was, I would say, like playoff time.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “A moment that I feel like I didn’t deserve”09.29.13

Andy Pettitte

“There’s no way I could dream of a complete game. … I just thought it would be me scuffling out there, and Joe would have to come and get me. (The reaction of) the fans here, my team, for me, I don’t feel like I deserve that, and it was incredible.
— Andy Pettitte

When Andy Pettitte tried to describe the postgame scene here in Houston, he got through one sentence before getting choked up, backing away from the microphone and struggling to compose himself. He’d just thrown his first complete game since 2006, gotten a standing ovation in a visiting ballpark — just a few miles from his offseason home — and finished off a win that assured he would retire having never had a losing record in his career.

“I don’t know how to even take you through it except that I didn’t even feel like I was worth to have that happen to me,” Pettitte said, before beginning to cry. “Especially their guys, the fans here, because they don’t know me, this team over here, and I appreciate that. And then our guys, obviously, know me better than anybody. There’s so many guys that I’m so close to, I’ve been around a long time, so that was just a moment that I feel like I didn’t deserve and I appreciated it.”

This was obviously different from the Mariano Rivera farewell, but it was still powerful and perfect in its own way. Joe Girardi said the dugout had a playoff feel because the team so badly wanted to give Pettitte a win. This game might not have meant a thing in the standings, but it meant a lot to the guy on the mound, and that was enough.

“It’s tough to put into words,” CC Sabathia said. “These are generational players, guys you don’t find every day.”

Andy Pettitte, Joe GirardiBefore the eighth inning, the Yankees actually came up with a signal for Pettitte, a way for him to let the team know if he’d run out of gas and couldn’t face another batter. He never used it. He threw 13 pitches that inning, and in the dugout afterward, Larry Rothschild said it was up to Pettitte to decide whether to go back out for the ninth.

“It’s such a mental battle because everything was hurting,” Pettitte said. “… I’m like, ‘Would you help me out here? What are you seeing? Do you think I can get through another inning, through the heart of their lineup?’ And Larry really didn’t give me a whole lot of help. But I wanted to finish it.”

Pettitte went back — of course he did — but he told Girardi to have Dave Robertson loose in the bullpen just in case. There were two fly ball outs to right field, then a single to left. That’s when Girardi went to the mound and, one last time, let Pettitte make the call.

“He said if someone got on, bring Robby in,” Girardi said. “‘Bring the kid in,’ he said — it shows you a little bit about how old he is — so I ran out there and I said, ‘It’s still up to you. You tell me what you want to do.”

Pettitte wanted to finish it. He wanted to close out his career in his own way, under his own terms, something he didn’t really do the last time. He slapped his glove, hugged Chris Stewart, went through a line of congratulations from his teammates, and was literally shoved back onto the field by Girardi for a standing ovation from both the Houston fans and the Houston players. He waved, then he walked away on his own terms.

“I love this game so much, and love competing,” Pettitte said. “It’s kind of built inside of you. I realize now you’re never going to lose that, because I’ve already retired once, and I thought the competitiveness was beat out of me already. It’s a shame we’ve got to get old, and you can’t just continue to play this game. But just how blessed and fortunate I am to be able to play a game and get paid to do it. It’s just been incredible. I’m so excited about being at home. It’s just a new chapter in my life. It’s time. I’m just really really looking forward to it.”

Derek Jeter , Andy PettitteWhat the other guys said about Pettitte…

Joe Girardi: “You think about how he pitched the last two months. He was as good as he’s been. When we needed him the most, he was as good as he’s been all year the last couple years. It’s just classic Andy: I’m going to find a way to fight through it. We didn’t score him a lot of runs again and he still got the win. … He talked about how he was getting tired after six and in the seventh. He kept going, and that’s just who he is. He’s a fighter when he’s out there and his competitive spirit is as good as anyone’s I’ve ever seen.”

CC Sabathia: “Especially toward the end, the seventh and eighth inning, me and Jeet, I started getting a little nervous. Hafner’s palms were sweating. I was hoping he could finish it and he did. It was awesome. … That was amazing. Harkey told him he’s been holding out on us. Just to watch him grind that out, pitch the way he pitched, it was unbelievable. I’m so proud of him. That’s a great way to go out.”

Derek Jeter: “He did an awesome job, but what would you expect otherwise? He’s been pitching big games his entire career. I know this one meant a lot to him. He wanted to have a good outing his last time out. I don’t know how many times he’s thrown that many pitches. It’s probably been 15 years since he’s done it. I told him he’s going to go see Dr. Andrews after the game. I’m happy for him, happy he was able to pitch like this his last game.”

Mariano Rivera: “I’m proud of him. He’s the best. That’s how God works. He gave him his last game being at home, threw a complete game. He did it alone with the Lord. Amazing. I’m so happy for him. He deserved that. … There was no doubt in my mind that he was the guy (who would get the last out). Joe was great to give him that shot. I’m glad it happened like that. He will have that in mind that that was his last game.”

Mariano Rivera• If you missed it in the game post, Rivera revealed today that he’d been pitching with soreness in his right forearm. He wouldn’t say when it started, only that it was well before Thursday’s game. “I think Thursday was the day that I left everything on the field,” he said. “I won’t say I’m hurt, but sore. I was pitching with tremendous soreness in my arm, but at the same time, I was giving everything. I left it there that night. Now I just want to enjoy what is left of the season.”

• As for not playing center field: “I did consider it strongly. If it would have been a few years earlier, I would have done it. But now my knee isn’t cooperating. I’m not going to make a fool of myself out there. I respect the game too much for me to do something that I’m not supposed to do.”

• Even with Pettitte pitching like this, Rivera said he was never thinking about coming in and close out one more Pettitte win. “No, I wasn’t,” Rivera said. “He was there and he was getting it done. And he did. He was there alone and no one will be there for him but himself, in a good sense. He did it.”

• Pettitte had not pitched a complete game since August 16, 2006, his last year with the Astros. He had not pitch a complete game on the road since April 30, 2001.

Andy Pettitte• Girardi on the complete game: “For Andy, we were always worried that he’d be strong the next start too. We wanted to keep him healthy. But I didn’t have to worry about that today.”

• Because he got the win, Pettitte improved to 11-11 on the season. That means he will retire having never finished a season with a losing record. “Obviously I knew that I had a losing record. I wanted to win,” Pettitte said. “(But) I hadn’t thought about what that means, I just know that I didn’t want to have a losing record. I’m not used to having a losing record. I’m not used to losing, I don’t feel like. So, no, not really. I just knew that this was an important game. I take every game so important. I take every game so hard and personal and I’m very thankful that we were able to win.”

• Although he didn’t show his emotions quite like Rivera did on Thursday, Pettitte said the day was an emotional one full of memories. “I was driving in today thinking about Joe catching me, and now he’s managing me,” Pettitte said. “Everything, you know. I’ve been saying it all day, before the game started. It’s a good day, but man it was a sad day too. I’ve been telling guys before I even started the game, I’ve been telling guys before I even started the game that it was a sad day.”

• Final word, naturally, goes to Pettitte: “I feel like (the past week) couldn’t have worked out any better, it couldn’t have happened any better. The only thing that could have worked out better was not hanging a couple of those cutters, on Sunday, in that game on Mo’s day. Other than not winning that ballgame, this, for me, it’s almost a fairy tale, man.”

Associated Press photos

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Pettitte goes out with a bang09.28.13

Andy Pettitte

Mariano Rivera’s last game was emotional. Andy Pettitte’s was simply dominant. Delivering his first complete game in seven years, Pettitte retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced in a 2-1 win against the Astros. Pitching just miles from his home in Deer Park, he’d retired 11 in a row before a two-out single in the ninth. Joe Girardi went to the mound but left Pettitte in to finish the game with a ground ball to third. The start was vintage Pettitte. He allowed at least one base runner in each of his first six innings, but he also induced two double plays, got 12 groundball outs and limited the Astros to just one run. The Houston crowd was chanting his name in the ninth inning. When it was over, Pettitte slapped his glove and hugged catcher Chris Stewart. Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, the Yankees tied the game with three straight singles, the last of which was Robinson Cano’s 107th RBI of the year. Eduardo Nunez scored the go ahead run on a bizarre play when the ball slipped out of the catcher’s hand on a fake throw to second, letting Nunez dash home from third to score on a close play at the plate.

Associated Press photo

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Game 161: Yankees at Astros09.28.13

YANKEES (83-77)
Curtis Granderson CF
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Zoilo Almonte RF
Ichiro Suzuki DH
Brendan Ryan SS
Chris Stewart C

LHP Andy Pettitte (10-11, 3.88)
Pettitte vs. Astros

ASTROS (51-109)
Jonathan Villar SS
Jose Altuve 2B
Matt Dominguez 3B
Chris Carter 1B
J.D. Martinez LF
Brandon Laird DH
Jimmy Paredes RF
Matt Pagnozzi C
Brandon Barnes CF

RHP Paul Clemens (4-6, 5.69)
Clemens vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 7:10 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Another rainy day, another night with the roof closed.

UMPIRES: HP Mark Wegner, 1B Tim Timmons, 2B Mike Winters, 3B Laz Diaz

SEEMS FITTING: Tonight Andy Pettitte will make his 438th start as a Yankee, tying Whitey Ford for the most in franchise history.

RUN SUPPORT: The Yankees have scored three or fewer runs in five straight games, their second-longest such stretch since the start of the 2006 season (had seven straight games of three runs or less from July 30 through August 6 of this season).

ON THIS DATE: On September 28, 1951, Allie Reynolds pitched his second career no hitter, and on September 28, 1923 the Yankees got a 24-4 win at Fenway Park during which they had 30 hits, setting a still-standing franchise record for hits in a game.

EXIT SANDMAN: Mariano Rivera said he’s definitely not going to pitch or play this weekend. “I think Thursday was the day that I left everything on the field,” he said. “I won’t say I’m hurt, but sore. I was pitching with tremendous soreness in my arm, but at the same time, I was giving everything. I left it there that night. Now I just want to enjoy what is left of the season.”

UPDATE, 7:28 p.m.: Seems right that Pettitte got a double play to end the first inning.

UPDATE, 7:43 p.m.: Two scoreless for Pettitte.

UPDATE, 8:13 p.m.: Good base running by Altuve has the Astros in the lead, 1-0, after four innings.

UPDATE, 8:40 p.m.: Three singles in the sixth have tied the game at 1. Cano had the RBI. Nunez barely missed a home run on a foul ball.

UPDATE, 8:50 p.m.: Well. That was weird. Ball slipped out of the catchers hand on a fake throw to second, then Nunez was safe on a very close play at the plate (hard to tell even on replay whether he should have been called out). In the end, it’s a 2-1 Yankees lead.

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Pregame notes: Rivera not likely to play this weekend09.28.13

Mariano Rivera

Just two days ago, Joe Girardi stirred plenty of excitement when he said he was “absolutely” open to the idea of playing Mariano Rivera in center field this weekend. If Rivera wanted it to happen, it would happen. Seemed like a cool and quirky way to end a historic career.

But that was Thursday afternoon, and by Thursday night, the situation had changed.

It now seems entirely likely that Rivera has played his final game, preferring to let Thursday’s emotional sendoff at Yankee Stadium stand as his final moment as a player.

“I think that’s a big part of it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That was a special night for him, and the way it unfolded, and I think he wants it to end that way. But if he changes his mind, it’s OK. Whatever he wants to do.”

Rivera told Girardi that he doesn’t want to play tonight, and it seems likely he won’t want to play tomorrow either.

“I don’t think we’re probably going to see (him play center field),” Girardi said. “At least I gave him the opportunity. It’s his decision. … I give him the option of telling me every day, that way if he changes his mind, he’s allowed to change his mind and it doesn’t look bad.”

Rivera is going to speak to the media as soon as batting practice ends, so that might bring some clarity about his state of mind, but that Thursday moment on the mound really does seem like perfect closure.

Alex Rodriguez• Alex Rodriguez is also finished for the season. He won’t play today, won’t play tomorrow, and he’ll begin is suspension appeal hearing on Monday. “Let’s get it on,” Rodriguez said. He said he’s fighting for his life, so he plans to be present for the entire process. He did not say whether he will testify.

• Why does Rodriguez seem so gung-ho about the hearing? “This has been a burden; a big burden,” he said. “Better to face it head on. Better Monday than let’s say, the one thing I didn’t want it to be was like December 14. A: it’s not fair to the Yankees; B: it’s not fair to baseball. Let’s go. You know what I mean?”

• Girardi on his curiosity about the Rodriguez hearing: “It will probably be hard not to follow it. Obviously it affects the team, so you’re going to follow it.”

• Another process that could begin very quickly after the season is a decision about whether Girardi returns as Yankees manager. His contract expires at the end of the season — technically at the end of October — and despite speculation that he might show interest in the Cubs job, Girardi has said he’d like to come back. “The thing is, you don’t (negotiate contracts) during the season here,” Girardi said. “The season will be over tomorrow, and I’m sure some things will start to happen.”

• Despite being on turn to start tomorrow’s finale, Hiroki Kuroda will sit. David Huff is the most likely starter, though Girardi said that’s not set in stone just yet. “(Kuroda)’s logged in so many innings, so if I don’t need him tomorrow, I won’t use him,” Girardi said.

• Of course, there’s on last farewell happening tonight with Andy Pettitte pitching his final game. “I think it will be special,” Girardi said. “Probably emotional at the end of it as well, but he’s had a wonderful career, and to be able to finish it this way – obviously, somewhat disappointed we’re not in the playoffs – but if you do and not be in the playoffs, pitching your final game at Yankee Stadium and then coming here, it’s got to be special.”

Associated Press photos

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Regulars (basically) play for Pettitte’s finale09.28.13

Curtis Granderson CF
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Zoilo Almonte RF
Ichiro Suzuki DH
Brendan Ryan SS
Chris Stewart C

LHP Andy Pettitte

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Robertson says no passing of the torch just yet09.28.13

David RobertsonMariano Rivera said goodbye on Thursday, and the very next night, it was Dave Robertson who picked up a quick, efficient save. Has there been a passing of the torch already?

If so, the guy who took the torch doesn’t know about it.

“Not really,” Robertson said. “(Thursday) night was such an emotional night, I didn’t know what to expect. I found myself holding back tears because it was sad; it was his last time to pitch in Yankee Stadium. It was a really different experience.

“I don’t feel like any of the passing of the torch has been done because I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I haven’t been told anything. I closed out (last night)’s game, but that’s (one night). I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. It’s just sad to know that that’s it. You’re not going to see him pitch again in Yankee Stadium.”

Robertson has always been very practical about the situation. He’d clearly like to be the closer — he was a closer in college, a reliever all through the minors, and how many guys in that situation wouldn’t want the ninth inning — but there is not line of succession. Being the setup man one year, doesn’t mean Robertson takes over for the closer the next year.

When given the chance to close very briefly in 2012 — immediately after Rivera’s injury and right before Rafael Soriano took the job — Robertson struggled, and admitted being nervous in the role. He thinks things would be different next time, and he seems to know they would have to be different for him to legitimately move into such a high-profile job.

“The first couple times I tried it, it was different because Mo wasn’t coming back,” Robertson said. “There was no way he could pitch that year. I felt a lot of pressure on me really quickly because no one expected him to get injured. When I had to step in and hold it down a couple days, I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me. It’s the same thing; you have to make good pitches. I got roughed up a couple times. I know it’s hard, but the situation was different then than it will hopefully be next year.”

Associated Press photo

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End of the road: Pettitte approaches his final start09.28.13

Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte knew this would be his final season, and it didn’t matter what the schedule said. He wasn’t looking for any sort of perfect-circle closure; didn’t need an end-of-the-year trip to Texas for things to feel complete. Even when he saw that the Yankees were closing the regular season in Houston — close enough to his home that Pettitte’s staying at his own house for this series — Pettitte saw it as practically meaningless.

“I just assumed that I wouldn’t be pitching here because I thought we’d make the playoffs and I figured that I wouldn’t be making a start here,” he said.

Instead of preparing for the postseason, the Yankees have a situation somewhat similar to Thursday: A perfectly meaningless game, with one especially meaningful element. It’s the final start of Pettitte’s career, and it’s going to happen in front of basically his entire family and his closest friends.

Andy PettitteHere’s Pettitte…

Last start will be more emotional or enjoyable?
“I think it’ll be enjoyable for sure. I think it’s going to be emotional. I’m not real sure what to expect to tell you the truth. There’s no doubt when I get out of the game it’s going to be sad because I know that’s it. The last game at (Yankee Stadium), I was of course sad after knowing it was my last game there. But like I told you all in the press conference, I had to win that game. I felt like I blew it. So I had all that going through my mind in that one. It wasn’t just solely focused on, this is it. So, I’m not exactly sure how it’ll be for me (tonight).”

Been bracing for the emotional part?
“I’m going to let whatever happens happens. … When I’m doing all my work now, when I’m doing my early running that I love to do and stuff like that, there’s a lot of stuff going through my head as far as all the stuff we’ve been through, all the good times, all the bad times. That’s definitely one thing that’s going on as I’ve been going through the last week, for sure.”

Hard to pitch with nothing on the line?
“I think knowing that this is my last start, and being here, it’s important to me. So I think it will be easy for me. Other than that, I can’t tell you (what it will be like). I don’t have a lot of meaningless starts in my career. I take it so serious. I want to pitch well, and I want to be prepared, so I don’t think that it will be hard. As a competitor, you know that you could go out there and give up seven or eight runs. Obviously that’s embarrassing. You don’t want to do that, so I’ll definitely try to prepare the best I can for it.”

How do you look back at the Houston years?
“Obviously it didn’t work out as far as the Yankees bringing me back. I had an opportunity to go to several other teams for a lot more money and it was, if I wasn’t going to go back to the Yankees, I wanted to come home, and hopefully, maybe able to do something special here. And I did look at this club and see the arms that they had — because really that’s all I was concerned with was the pitching staff — and I knew they had a few guys that were horses, and I felt that if you added me to that that we would maybe have a chance to get to the postseason. … They never won a postseason series (before). I believe we were the first. And to, in ’05, help take them to a World Series, it was remarkable because every night here it was very exciting. It was cool to feel like you’d brought some energy in baseball to the city. So that was definitely a good run we had for three years.”

Regret about not staying with the Yankees throughout?
“There’s not just because I just felt like, it didn’t work out. It was a time and a place where I understood, the Yankees had known that my elbow had been bothering me for a long time and I had been pitching with it, and I understand. But you know me. I believe God works everything out. I think I’ve told you, I had a very dear friend of mine die of cancer that year, and I just feel like everything worked out for a reason. I was able to be here with him when he passed away. It was like my second dad, so just the way everything plays into it, I just feel like God just worked everything out perfect for me.”

Which Yankees teammates were most influential?
“It’s kind of gone in stages. When I first came up, Jimmy Key, my first year, because he was who I wanted to be. I was in Triple-A watching. When he pitched, I was watching his game instead of watching our Triple-A game so I could try to see how he was getting guys out. Then it moved from him to Kenny Rogers, who was a close friend of mine. Then when Roger came over, obviously he made a huge impact on my career. Just so many people. I think of, like, Scott Brosius. There’s so many names. John Wetteland my first year was always there for me. Then past that, when I came over here to the Astros, I felt like it was me trying to impact and push everybody else.
“But there’s still the guys that you’re still kind of intertwined with that you kind of feel like you feed off each other. Obviously, for me here, (CC Sabathia) is just a huge guy for me now and a big reason for why I’ve always wanted to come back and pitch on the staff with him. The competitor that he is, and Hiro, these are guys that, if they weren’t here, it would kind of make my decisions a little bit tougher as far as when I think about coming back.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 205 Comments →

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