Monday, May 7, 2012

How "Ready" Is Andy Pettitte?

(Courtesy of The AP)

Far be it for me to question Andy Pettitte about his preparedness to join the Yankee rotation.  After all, he's done this for over 15 years and probably knows his body and his conditioning better than anybody, and my 3-year Little League career included no more than 5 legitimate hits at the plate and more HBPs than strikeouts on the mound.  But I have to admit that Pettitte's no-nonsense declaration that he was ready to join the rotation and implication that he expected to be called up this week raised at least one of my eyebrows, especially with the lines he's put up in his last 2 starts.

On Sunday, Andy pitched 5 innings for Triple-A Empire State, the first time he faced this high a level of competition on his comeback tour.  In those 5 innings, he allowed 5 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks, striking out 5 batters and throwing 92 pitches in the process.  Some defensive shenanigans inflated his line a bit, as infielders Steve Pearce and Brandon Laird both botched plays in the first 2 innings, but it was hardly a smooth outing for Pettitte.  This start comes on the heels of his previous start, a 5.2-inning Ext. ST outing that saw him give up 5 ER on 10 hits.  The general feeling right now is that Pettitte's velocity on his pitches is right where he wants it to be, but his command of his offspeed stuff isn't all the way there.  If that's the case, then I have to ask, why not give him another rehab start?

On Mo's Injury/Comeback

(Not an image I ever wanted (or expected) to see.  Courtesy of The AP)

The roughly 24-hour period of time from last Thursday night to last Friday night was right up there with the most emotional moments I've had as a Yankee fan.  The initial breaking story of Mariano Rivera being carted off the field prior to Thursday's game and follow-up video of Mo crumbling to the ground in pain were so shocking that I actually had trouble falling asleep on Thursday night, and by the time I woke up on Friday morning, they still didn't quite seem real.

I spent the majority of my day at the office on Friday in a confused haze and was finally coming to terms with the fact that Mo's career was really over when I got home from work, fired up the computer, and starting reading tweets and reports that he was coming back.  Once I saw quotes from Mo himself and a video clip of him speaking to Pedro Gomez, you could have burned my apartment to the ground in front of me and it still wouldn't have wiped the smile off my face.  With all due respect to Suzyn Waldman and Rawjuh Clemens, Mo's announcement was far more dramatic and far more meaningful to me as a fan.  And after 3 days I finally feel like I can attempt to talk competently about it.

Game 28 Wrap-Up: NYY 10 KC 4

(Courtesy of The AP)

Phil Hughes' last start was an improvement, but with his overall body of work for the season, the void that Mo's injury created in the bullpen, and Andy Pettitte continuing to close in on his return, Phil needed another good start to keep himself in the running for a rotation spot.  He did pitch well yesterday, and got plenty of help from the offense to get the Bombers back in the win column.

Game Notes:

- Hughes allowed a 1st-inning run after giving up a 1-out walk and a double, and I'm sure plenty of Yankee fan eyes rolled, but he settled down after that and pitched a very solid game, allowing just 1 more run through 6 innings and not walking another batter.

- The Yankee offense gave Hughes plenty of early support, getting the run back in the 2nd on a RBI single by Raul Ibanez, and then dropping the hammer on Royals' starter Luke Hochevar in the 3rd.

- A leadoff single by Dewayne Wise, another single from Derek Jeter, and a third from Curtis Granderson and the Yankees had the lead.  A-Rod was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Robinson Cano, still stagnant at the plate, unloaded them with a monster grand slam to right-center field to make it 6-1 Yanks.

- To add insult to injury, Nick Swisher crushed a solo shot to make it 7-1 and end Hochevar's day.  Swish was DHing yesterday in his first game back , and his bat didn't appear to have missed a beat.

- If this was Hughes' last start in the rotation, Joe certainly let him empty the tank.  Hughes threw 115 pitches before finally tiring out in the 7th, 75 for strikes.  His fastball, as usual, was his go-to pitch and Hughes was feeling it yesterday, throwing it for strikes at about 93-95 all day.  He also got swinging Ks on his curveball and changeup, and even though his day ended on a sour note, it was a good line for Hughes.

- The Yankee offense gave Hughes a lot of support early, and also provided some late on a 3-run bomb from The Horse in the 8th.  It was a vintage A-Rod swing and maybe a sign that he's starting to wake up.

- This was the type of offensive performance this team needed after a relatively quiet week.  They banged out 12 hits (5 players each had 2) and 6 walks, and got encouraging signs of life from A-Rod and Cano.