In just a little over an hour, Andy Pettitte will complete his spring comeback attempt when he once again dons the Yankee pinstripes and takes the mound to start for the New York Yankees. To say this comeback was unexpected would be an understatement, at least for me personally, and there have been plenty of questions attached to this comeback related to how Andy would perform and what the Yankees could expect from him. He's answer every question over the past month plus except the last one. Today, that question will finally start to be answered.
I said right after he came back that I didn't want him to just be gift-wrapped a spot in the rotation, and I said after his last MiL start thatI thought he could use one more, but the fact of the matter is that what Andy has already done in his build-up starts is better than what the Yankees have been getting from the 5th spot in their rotation from Day 1 this season. He's been far more effective in giving up runs and limiting damage than Freddy Garcia was, and he's pitched deeper into games than David Phelps has in his 2 audition outings. 5+ innings of 2-3-run ball isn't flashy, but it's an improvement over what the team has been getting from the back end of the rotation, and with the top 4 pitching better lately it's exactly what this team needs.
The atmosphere is going to be electric today at the Stadium, and it should be. It's not often that we get to see an integral part of a Yankee dynasty come back and compete again. But to expect electricity and dominance from Andy today would be wrong. As long as he can continue to be better than what the 5th starters before him were, Andy is going to be successful. And to give him a start at home, against a weak offensive team is the perfect way to gauge where he's at and work him back into the fold. I won't get to watch the game today, but if Andy is sitting 85-89 with his fastball, working his cutter consistently, and has better command of his other offspeed pitches than he did the last time out, I'm going to be happy.
Phil Hughes has been trending up lately, and his teammates have been doing the same over the past 5 days. The Yankees were fresh off of beating Felix Hernandez on Friday and facing a pitcher whom the have some familiarity with in former teammate Hector Noesi. The struggles of April were starting to fade in the rearview mirror and the Yanks were looking to keep it that way yesterday.
- It looked like we were being set up for a pitchers' duel as both guys worked through the majority of the first 2 innings unscathed. But with 2 outs in the bottom of the 2nd, the Yankee offense strung together a trio of big hits (RBI doubles by Ibanez and Martin, and a 2-R HR by Jayson Nix) to stake Hughes to a 4-0 lead.
- For the 3rd straight game, Hughes seemed to use the "reliever mentality" he talked about to his advantage. He threw a lot of strikes, worked from ahead in the count more often than not, and did a much better job of putting hitters away with 2 strikes. Through 6 innings, the Mariners had just 3 hits and 1 walk to their credit.
- Raul Ibanez has been on a mini-tear this week and he continued that in the 4th with his 7th HR of the season. He now has 7 on the season, 2 in consecutive games, and 4 in his last 5.
- Hughes did give up a home run to Mike Carp in the 7th for his only run of the day, a byproduct of being a flyball pitcher, but for the most part Hughes was outstanding yesterday. He used his changeup a lot more than he had recently, and many of the flyballs he got were easy outs.
- The most important thing was that Hughes seemed to mix all his pitches better, which made him more effective with 2 strikes. Rather than try to throw the ball by everybody, he was very willing to let the Mariner offense make contact and trust his defense behind him. He only recorded 4 Ks yesterday, but he also only walked 1 batter.
- Hughes tired in the 8th, not a big surprise considering he was at 112 pitches, and Boone Logan came on to strike out Ichiro to end the inning.
- Robinson Cano kept his hitting streak alive with an RBI single for some insurance in the bottom of the 8th, and it was up to Logan to close the game out, which he did with 3 more strikeouts. He did give up a run, but it was another stellar performance from Logan.
- Interesting note- Logan was the 3rd different Yankee reliever to record a save since Mo's injury.