(Courtesy of The AP)
Andy Pettitte wasn't supposed to be icing on the cake for the rotation this season, he was supposed to be the sprinkles on the ice cream that sat on top of the icing on the cake. For the better part of spring camp after his signing was made official, all the talk was about how the Yankees were 7 deep in the rotation, 10 deep if you counted Phelps-Mitchell-Warren, and a dozen deep if you wanted to throw ManBan and Betances into the mix. I myself discussed the idea of what should or shouldn't be done with Pettitte if he's ready to pitch and the rotation is solid.
How quickly things can change, huh? Suddenly the Yankee rotation is looking just as weak and potentially just as thin as it has for the past couple seasons. Michael Pineda is on the shelf for at least the next calendar year, Hiroki Kuroda has been up and down in his first 4 starts, Phil Hughes has been downright awful, and Freddy Garcia's next start will determine whether he gets labeled "more awful" than Hughes or "not quite as awful" as Hughes.
And still lingering in the background is Andy, fresh off his most recent rehab start on Wednesday, when he allowed 3 ER on 7 hits in 5 innings of work at Double-A. After that game, he expressed some displeasure with himself and his performance for the first time since coming back, leading to questions about just how many more starts he will need to make before he is declared ready for the rotation. Whenever that declaration is made, Andy will now not just be expected to waltz in on the pinstriped carpet and provide some innings here or there while people flock to take pictures of him; he's going to have to pitch well.
If Hughes and Garcia continue to struggle, Andy is going to be looked at to provide length and quality innings to solidify the back end of the rotation. And while that certainly won't fluster a professional of his caliber with his track record, it's probably not what most of us were expecting to say about his return. Andy was the de facto stopper for the rotation late in the 2009 season and through the World Series run. He might have to take on a similar role with the 2012 rotation in May.