When the New York Yankees signed Andy Pettitte late spring they knew there was plenty of potential in the then 39 year-old arm. Could he make a comeback after being away from the game for more than a year? Now the question is can he make two comebacks in the same season?
Back in March when he signed a one-year deal with the Yankees, Pettitte and his staunchest supporters were unsure how his body would respond to the daily rigors of professional baseball after being away from the game for well over a year. But, he had the drive and missed the game. He had kept in shape and was on a throwing program.
He was back on the mound by May 13 and while not an impressive first start he looked like a pitcher the Yankees could get plenty of miles out of in 2012. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and it wasn’t due to performance or an arm injury, but a freak accident that left his left ankle fractured. Now 40, can Pettitte make it all the way back again?
He and the Yankees will find out the answer to that question today as Pettitte will make his first start since June 27. Pettitte’s silver lining to having an ankle injury is that he was able to stay on a program to keep his arm strong. The last several weeks of his rehab have gotten him to a point where pushing off the rubber and making other movements around the mound are once again pain feel and fluid.
“I’m going to go out there, hope I can get in a good rhythm, have my command and I’ll throw the ball well,” Pettitte said. “If I don’t, if I’m walking guys and my command isn’t good, I’m going to get hit, I’m going to get knocked around. That’s just the way it is.”
Chances are he’ll be rusty. Throwing simulated games and batting practice is obviously nothing like pitching in a real game, let alone one that matters a lot to the Yankees playoff aspirations. The Yankees are hoping for 70 pitches today and would be ecstatic if he could ramp up to the 100-pitch mark over the last couple weeks remaining in the regular season with an eye toward having a proven postseason starter on the mound come October.
Today’s measuring stick is how the ankle feels, not necessarily how he looks on the mound. It will take a start or two to get the kinks out. That would be the case for anyone missing almost three months on the mound. What matters is that the ankle holds up.
Pettitte’s ability to perform this time around after he went 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in his nine starts prior to the injury may no longer be in question. There is still plenty left in the southpaw’s arm. There was never any concern about Pettitte’s drive and desire to compete when he staged his first comeback. He could have taken the injury as a sign that the comeback was not meant to be and hang the cleats up for good. But, the desire to be on the field is too strong for Pettitte the ultimate competitor and there is no reason to doubt his second comeback in the same season will be a success.