Yankees Notebook: Pettitte testifies in Clemens trial

Andy Pettitte outside the courthouse where he testified in the Roger Clemens perjury trial.
WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

A day after throwing 96 pitches in extended spring training in Florida,
Andy Pettitte headed to Washington, D.C. to testify in the Roger Clemens
perjury trial. While it was always known Pettitte would testify, the date came as a surprise.

Nothing new came from the appearance. Pettitte reiterated what he had told Congress in 2008. He testified that Clemens told him he took human growth hormone, a contradiction to Clemens’s claim that Pettitte “misremembers.”

Manager
Joe Girardi said he spoke with him before he allowed five earned runs
and 10 hits to the Phillies’ extended spring training team on Monday. He did not
think the looming testimony was weighing heavily on Pettitte.

“I
spoke to him before he pitched,” Girardi said. “He didn’t really lead me
to believe that it was going to affect the way he was going to throw
the baseball, but I’m sure it was on his mind. I don’t know how it
wouldn’t be.”

Pettitte is expected to make another start sometime over the weekend. That also might not be his last start in the minors.

“It
has to be determined by the people who are watching,” Girardi said. “I
get reports by my eyes aren’t exactly on him to know what’s going on.”

Nunez works in outfield

For the second straight night, Eduardo Nunez was the starting left fielder. Nunez has shagged fly balls in left field during batting practice in preparation for his time as an outfielder.

Nunez, who recorded five putouts Monday, is following the advice of Andruw Jones, who won 10 Gold Gloves in Atlanta. Jones rarely struggled with getting jumps on balls and was mentored as a young player by Marquis Grissom, who was considered an elite defensive center fielder in 1996 when Jones first appeared in the majors.

“What he needs to do is get familiar with left,” Jones said. “He should go out there [during batting practice, when pitchers shag fly balls] and tell the pitchers, ‘Get out of the way, I’ve got to work on something.’”

Nunez could see a little more time out there in the near future as the Yankees will face left-handed starting pitchers three of the next four nights. After seeing Brian Matusz last night, they will oppose southpaws Danny Duffy and Bruce Chen in their first two games in Kansas City.

Although the Yankees sometimes don’t hesitate to put Brett Gardner in against lefties, they likely won’t have him back from the disabled list Thursday. Gardner is eligible to return from a wrist injury but the Yankees want him to appear in at least one minor league rehab game.

Also working in Nunez’s favor for some upcoming chances at left field is the combination of Raul Ibanez’s recent struggles against left-handed pitching and Nick Swisher’s hamstring injury. Ibanez has a .216 average (30-for-139) off southpaws since the start of 2011 and Swisher is out at least a week.

“They need to put him out there so he can develop trust in his talent,” Jones said. “Let him play out there if that’s where they think he’s going to play. I told him to try to show that he can play everywhere. He makes himself an everyday player that way. He doesn’t have bad hands. He might get a bad jump sometimes, but his speed will cover the bad jump.”

Evaluating April

The Yankees made it through April with a winning record for the fourth consecutive season. They won 13 of their last 19 games after a three-game sweep in Tampa Bay and did so by having a team ERA of 4.33.

That figure is inflated by the poor performances from Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes, who have combined to allow 33 runs in 29 2/3 innings. Ivan Nova’s 5.18 ERA has not helped, but he has won three games. The Yankee rotation has a 5.80 ERA and the pitching staff has a 9.80 ERA in the team’s nine defeats.

The 4.33 ERA in April is a slight increase from the 3.86 in April 2011 and the 3.55 in April 2010.

It also is nowhere as close to the 5.79 posted in 2009, a figure that was inflated due to Chien-Ming Wang’s struggles. It also did not resemble the 5.02 posted in April 2007 when Carl Pavano was the Opening Day starter on a team that dropped 14 of its first 25 contests.

So compared to those numbers, consider Girardi pleased with the first month.

“I think it’s a month where you can look at it half-empty or half full,” Girardi said. “The struggles that our starting pitchers have had, we’re lucky to be 13-9 but if we had the starting pitching we expected, where would we be? So I’m pleased with where we are.”

The Yankees also finished the month with a .273 batting average and 36 home runs. The home runs are five less than last April, but the batting average is 18 points higher and that has been achieved without much help from second baseman Robinson Cano.

Cano is hitting .267, but had four RBI, which represent his least productive month of his eight-year career in terms of run production.

“There’s still some guys that need to get on track,” Girardi said. “Think about it, we’re 13-9, we’ve had struggles in the rotation. A long man is stepping in on Thursday. We haven’t gotten a lot of production from Robby Cano and we’re 13-9. So I think it tells you the depth of our club.”

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


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