Even if manager Joe Girardi is not concerned, Andy Pettitte will always be his biggest critic, and he offered a scathing review of his second straight performance with little movement on his fastball.
“I’m not going to judge someone on two starts,” Girardi said after Sunday’s 5-4 loss to Oakland. “If it goes on for a month, then I think obviously there’s some concern. I think every pitcher in the big leagues has probably had two starts that you know weren’t so good and not what you’re used to seeing from a particular pitcher.
“If he was 26 or if he was 32, we wouldn’t have to question but because of his age, I think we have to question. So I think two starts it way too much to make a big deal out of.”
Pettitte struggled through five innings and although he did not get the decision because the Yankees rallied in the eighth inning, frustration was the primary theme from the 40-year-old left-hander.
“It’s a struggle,” Pettitte said. “The issue is everything again. Just everything that you want to try to do as a starting pitcher, I’m not able to do right now. I had no command of my fastball.
The lack of fastball command was evident from the outset. Luke Montz hit a home run off the fastball in the fourth for a 2-0 lead and Yoenis Cespedes did the same for a two-run home run in the fifth.
It also was obvious when Pettitte gave up two walks on his fastball to load the bases in the first inning. Though Pettitte escaped, it set the tone for a day when he reached three-ball counts on seven occasions.
“Everything’s been great in my bullpen,” Pettitte said. “So something’s going on during the game. My release point is floating around a little bit. I can feel it. I feel pretty good on a few pitches coming out, and then I feel terrible.
“You just know the feel of the ball coming off your fingers. It’s not coming off right.”
Pettitte failed to win for the third straight start after opening his 18th season with a 3-0 record. Since beating Toronto on April 19, Pettitte has allowed 14 runs and 21 hits over his last 15 1/3 innings while seeing his ERA increase from 2.01 to 4.06.
“It’s been a long, long time since I hadn’t had a feel for my pitches,” Pettitte said. “When I get out there in a game, it’d be nice to be able to have command of something out there.”
Perhaps the worst thing for Pettitte is the issue with his cut fastball. Pettitte has thrown 191 pitches over his last two starts but only 27 have been cutters.
To put that in context, he threw the cutter 36 times in a 10-strikeout performance in a 3-0 loss at Tampa Bay on April 24. He also threw it that often in a 9-4 win in Toronto when he made a start after not pitching in nine days.
“My cutter is nonexistent right now,” Pettitte said. “A pitch in certain counts that I want to go to, right now, it’s awfully difficult because when I do throw a good one and then I trust the next one and it’s a bad pitch, it’s hard to trust it again. I got to figure this out and figure it out hopefully pretty quick.”
If there is a good news element to Pettitte’s sudden loss of cut fastball command, it is that he said he’s not hurt. The no-excuses left-hander almost sounded like he wished an injury was the cause.
Instead, he will have to work his way out of this frustrating stretch.
“I feel good, I do,” Pettitte said. “I wish I could tell you that something’s hurting, but I feel good. That’s the frustrating part. You could have things hurting and I’ve pitched a lot better than this.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.