Yankees Notebook: Andy Pettitte to return Sunday

Andy Pettitte went five innings for Scranton-Wilkes Barre last time out.

General manager Brian Cashman announced before Tuesday night’s game with the Rays that Andy Pettitte will be slotted in to pitch Sunday against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium.

“I think everyone is in agreement that he’s not going to really benefit from any more time down below,” Cashman said.

There was some thought that Pettitte might need another minor league start, but the Yankees felt four was enough. In those starts, Pettitte had a 3.71 earned run average in 17 innings.

“At some point you make a call, especially with veterans it’s kind of difficult,” Cashman said. “You’ve seen Andy go through the process. There’s only so much you’re going to see at a certain level. It’s not necessarily always performance related. Obviously you have to see stuff, you have to see a lot of different things, but sometimes it’s hard to judge on the results.”

“Reports that I’ve gotten have been pretty good,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He struggled a little bit in his last with command of some of his pitches, but that doesn’t mean that he’s ready or he’s not ready. We feel that he’s physically ready.”

Pettitte has not faced major league hitters since Game 3 of the 2010 ALCS on Oct. 18, 2010. He allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings, while his four-seam fastball averaged 88.7 miles per hour and his cut fastball averaged 82.3.

During his minor league appearances, Pettitte’s velocity was reportedly in the mid-80s, though he maintained those appearances had little to do with velocity. In preparation for his return, Pettitte threw off flat ground Monday near his home in Westchester, N.Y. He will follow that by likely throwing two bullpen sessions.

Sunday’s start could be a tentative one because the Yankees face the possibility of weather issues this week. That would be Ivan Nova’s next scheduled start after Tuesday, but the Yankees did not say what move would be made to accommodate Pettitte’s return to the rotation.

“I don’t want guys approaching this start, saying if I don’t do well this could be my last start,” Girardi said. “People are going to write that enough and the manager doesn’t need to say it. So we’re going to make a determination on what we feel is best for the club and we will move forward after Sunday.”

If Pettitte pitched to the same ERA he had in the minors, or to his 3.88 career ERA, that would be better than everyone but Hiroki Kuroda’s 3.75 mark. CC Sabathia has pitched better and lowered his ERA to 4.15, Nova took a 5.58 mark into last night, Phil Hughes has a 6.67 ERA and Freddy Garcia was sent to the bullpen after posting a 12.51 ERA in four starts.

“It would help, but at the same time there’s still the unknown,” Cashman said. “There’s a gap between what the old Andy Pettitte is and what we’re going to get. I just don’t know yet, but I look forward to adding another healthy arm to the mix here because depth has been challenged and some of our healthy starters have been inconsistent.

“So it would be nice to start pulling together a string of consistently strong starters one through five. Hopefully that can include Andy as well.”

Pettitte will turn 40 on June 15 and when he reaches that date, he will be the first 40-year-old to start a game for the Yankees since Roger Clemens made 17 starts in 2007 as a 44-year-old and then 45-year-old. The last 39-year-old to start for the Yankees was Mike Mussina, who won 20 games in 2008.

“I think all of us probably expect that we’re going to see Andy Pettitte and what we’re used to seeing is a guy that grinds out starts and has the ability to get double plays,” Girardi said. “I think you can only go back to what you’ve seen from him. I think his stuff is going to be pretty similar to what he had when he walked away in 2010.”

Cashman confirms complications for Rivera

Mariano Rivera consulted with Dr. Chris Ahmad and Russell Warren Monday at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, but no surgery has been scheduled.

Reports circulated that Rivera experienced some complications and that was confirmed by Cashman. Cashman did not comment on the reports, but said it would not impact Rivera’s ability to pitch and that the closer would be at Yankee Stadium to address that.

“I’ll let Mo talk about it when he is here,” Cashman said. “Any follow-ups on that should go to Mo. He is in good spirits and you’ll see him tomorrow.”

Another reason for no surgery being scheduled is that ACL surgery usually occurs seven to 10 days after the initial injury in an effort to reduce swelling. Rivera suffered the injury last Thursday and based on that timetable Friday would be seven days.

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


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