One year ago today, Andy Pettitte returned
It had seemed that the old lefty had left the game for good following the 2010 season, as absolutely no murmurs of a potential comeback were spread during 2011. Andy was enjoying life at home in Texas, being there for his family like he hadn’t been for almost his entire adult life.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were doing just fine without him. Piecing together a starting rotation featuring Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, the team won 97 games and the A.L. East. Andy even threw out the first pitch to Jorge Posada prior to Game 2 of the ALDS, making a brief re-appearance in New York. It was a great, yet unfortunate moment, as fans knew he went out on the top of his game, and probably could have helped the Yanks that October.
The season ended and soon after it was reported Andy Pettitte would be back with the Yankees – as a spring instructor, that is. Any remaining fans holding out for a return of #46 probably finally gave up when the team bolstered its pitching staff by acquiring Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda. If there wasn’t even a rotation spot open, how could anyone expect him to put the pinstripes back on, or longer than the two weeks Andy was scheduled to be down in Tampa that is.
Spring training beckoned and indeed Pettitte was back in uniform. Throwing BP, helping out minor leaguers, and getting his chops busted by his former teammates, Andy was reportedly in incredible shape. Of course, a beer belly wouldn’t form over one year, but still it looked as if he was keeping his body in baseball shape.
And that’s when our sneeky general manager Brian Cashman got to work. Andy had indeed been working out, and wanted to pitch again. It was a shocking development that was kept under wraps for a few weeks, as the then 39-year old threw a few bullpen sessions testing how it felt to be back on a mound after so long.
The Yankees must have been pleased with what they saw, for on March 16th, 2012 it was announcedby YES Network’s Jack Curry that they had signed back their homegrown ace to a minor league contract worth up to $2.5 million in incentives. To the public, it seemed completely out of the blue and many fans were shocked but elated to have Pettitte back.
Still, there was no guaruntee of him even getting back to the major leagues. He had to mak e a number of starts at various levels in the Yankees’ farm system while the regular season was underway, to make sure that his “stuff” could still get out professional baseball players.
When the Yanks finally purchased his contract and called him up to officially return to Major League Baseball, it just so happened to be Mother’s Day. Facing the Mariners, Pettitte quickly settled down and before you knew it he was pitching like he never left. Four earned runs in 6.1 innings was a start typical to Andy’s career, but his performance following that was exceptional.
He would pitch to a 2.87 ERA in an injury-shortened season, posting an 8.2 K/9 ratio while striking out batters at an astronimcal rate. In the postseason he was dandy as he’s always been, allowing just 5 runs total in two starts. He didn’t add to his record 19 postseason wins, but he certainly deserved to.
And so here we are today. Andy Pettitte is back for 2013 as well and is pitching [aside from two subpar outings] as well if not better than many of the top flight starters in MLB. Each night he takes the mound it really is a treat to watch, because a little over a year ago we were certain to have seen the last of old #46. He’s gotten a new appreciation and love for the game thanks to his year off, and hopefully the rest he got then can keep him healthy and productive for the Yanks throughout this season. As in each of his past 17 seasons, we’ll need him.