Welcome back! You can never have too much pitching.

Is there anyone who looks cooler going about his work? No. No there is not.

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.

5 thoughts on “Welcome back! You can never have too much pitching.

  1. Mike, one thing I’m wondering is where does the extra starter pitch? This would be a problem in the beginning when Pettitte is ready, but also after he replaces someone in the rotation and the Yankees are trying to get that person healthy/effective. I guess initially you could keep Pettitte in extended spring training until there is an opening, but that doesn’t give much opportunity to see what he’s got. Alternatively, I’ve read Huges, Nova, and Pineda all have minor league options remaining, so you could send one of the three or Pettitte to AAA. But that rotation is already full too.

    It makes sense you can never have too much pitching. But once Andy is ready, how do you manage the logistics of actually keeping all seven guys sharp?

    • That kind of stuff usually works itself out over time. Someone could go down early, like Phil did last year, and then it becomes easier to manage. I also still think Hughes is the one on the hot seat. If he stumbles out the gate I think he heads to the pen. Though he tends to be good at the start of the season, so he may outpitch Nova or Pineda in the first month.

      Pettitte is on a minor league deal too, so he could pitch for a time at varying levels of the minor leagues as he works his way back. Because if Andy is on the team I don’t care what he does early, I want him healthy, starting playoff games.

  2. The person that this move hurts the most in terms of starting has to be Freddy Garcia as he is now the 7th starter/long relief. However, I don’t see Pettitte being ready till at least June 1st since he has not pitched competively in over a year and just realizing the probabilities of injuries and starting pitching I would not be surprised if at least one starting pitcher is hurt. There is also a chance that Pettitte is not good enough, but he seems to have enough guile to work with diminished stuff and is a lefty so predicting what might happen two to three months in the future is all in jest right now.

    • Apparently he’s been throwing and working out since December. If that’s true he may be further along than many of us think, it’s just impossible to know for now.

  3. The Andy Pettitte addition is strength, nothing more. Forget Freddy Garcia. As solid as he was for the Yankees last year, he’s a junk baller who’s past his prime. Giving him six innings every five games provides exactly nothing to the Yankees. If he sits on the pine so be it. He has exactly zero trade value. After that, Andy only poses a problem if he’s pitching well enough to bump down one of the three young starters and all three of them are pitching well enough to stay in the bigs. That’s unlikely. Odds are one of the three will need time in AAA, for whatever reason. As I said, you can never have too much pitching.