One of my proudest moments as a Yankee fan was watching Andy Pettitte come back in 2007 after his
banishment stint with the Astros. Pettitte never should have left the Yankees. He had so much left in his tank that it was full. Sure, he missed a chunk of time in 2004 with an injury, but he turned around and gave the Astros lights out production in 2005 and a solid Andy Pettitte season in 2006. That performance should have come in a Yankee uniform. Simply put, you don’t let a home grown pitcher in his prime walk away. Watching Andy come back in pinstripes was like watching justice get served. Three years is a long time. I’ll always remember how right it felt watching him come back.
I was as surprised as anyone to learn that Pettitte had signed a minor league contract with the Yankees. Pettitte may even have surprised himself. If this was more than a last minute decision he would have come back at the start of spring training, instead of mid-way through it. Regardless, I love watching Pettitte work and can’t wait to see what he can do.
Which raises the obvious question, what will the Yankees let him do? Obviously, if you have the chance to sign Andy Pettitte for at most $2.5 million, you take it without thinking twice. You can never have too much pitching. However, with Andy on the team (assuming he still has it, something that is not a given) the Yankees now have seven possible starters for only five slots. Something has to give, right?
Let me be the first to say, no, nothing has to give. We need only look at recent history to see that a team can never rest on its laurels when it comes to pitching. Last season the Yankees were cruising with pitchers until Bartolo Colon injured himself and never regained the form he lost. The season before that there was a fleeting moment when A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez both appeared to have worked out all their kinks, giving the Yankees five legitimate starters, before the wheels came off both of them (and to a certain extent Phil Hughes as well) leaving the Yankees high and dry. There is a reason baseball people say you can never have too much pitching. That reason is because you can never have too much pitching. An injury, a down month, or something else is always just around the corner with a starting rotation.
Assuming Pettitte can regain his lost form, I predict that the Yankees will have a log jam in the rotation for, at most, a couple of weeks, if at all. Odds are that one of the remaining starters (non CC Sabathia division) will struggle badly, get injured, or, god forbid, both. When that happens this problem will solve itself because Pettitte only presents a problem if he’s preventing one of the Yankees’ young starters from getting quality reps at the big league level (not even Freddy Garcia cares if Freddy Garcia gets to pitch this year or not). While I’d love to imagine that Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes will all go an entire season without any problems, the odds of that happening with three established pitchers in their primes is slim, never mind with three young guys still out to prove themselves. The unfortunate odds are that one of those guys will struggle at some point in the year. When that happens, it will give Yankee fans everywhere one more reason to be glad that Andy Pettitte decided to have one last season in pinstripes.