Andy Pettitte’s third stint with the Yankees will not officially begin until Sunday, but as he prepares for it, the lefty could hardly contain his excitement.
“I’m excited,” Pettitte said during a conference call Thursday afternoon. “I’m so excited to get back in uniform and get back with the guys and just hang with them and stuff like that. The fans just throughout me making my starts down in the minor leagues have just been awesome, but it’s time now. I have my pitch count up and it’s time to get up here and try to get going up here now.”
Leading up to his 480th career start and 397th as a Yankee, Pettitte has spent him time in Westchester, N.Y. and at Yankee Stadium. In Westchester, he has worked out a gym owned by strength coach Dana Cavlea and in the Bronx he has come in for some late-morning bullpen sessions under the watchful eye of pitching coach Larry Rothchild.
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Pettitte is returning after some uneven statistics in six minor league starts on three different levels, but reiterated what general manager Brian Cashman said Monday. Those starts are about showing good stuff and getting comfortable again.
“I feel like my strength is there,” Pettitte said. “My legs are under me well. [It is] two starts in a row that I’ve went into 90 pitches and that’s kind of where they wanted me to get and I feel good about it. My last outing was probably my worst outing as far as how I’ve felt as far as the feel of stuff. So it’s really hard to take a read on these minor league starts.”
While it might be difficult to gauge minor league starts, Pettitte says he will be disappointed if his major league return does not go well. The last pitcher who returned from retirement for the Yankees was Roger Clemens in 2007 and he was 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA and got hurt in a playoff game.
“I felt like that when I made the decision to come back and that decision, like I told you all before, was made after just doing some workouts and get to where I was able to throw my bullpens and seeing how I was feeling,” Pettitte said. “Then just knowing how I’m throwing in my bullpens and stuff like that now, I just really believe I’m going to be able to get back to where I was. I’m going to be very disappointed if I don’t, so I’m definitely expecting that out of myself.”
When Pettitte does return, his parents and parents-in-law will be watching from the stands. His oldest son Josh will not attend because of a high school playoff game in Texas.
His family, friends and other fans will likely see a somewhat nervous pitcher in the opening inning, but the Yankees will be hoping he pitch well and get past the sixth, something that has happened in just half of their 30 games so far.
“You just want to get out there; you want to get that first out behind you, get through that first inning and try to settle in,” he said. “It really seems like that first inning is always — you might be overthrowing a little bit or trying to get a feel. Hopefully, [I’ll] be able to settle into a good rhythm.”
Pettitte has been following the team when he was not making rehab starts and he watched manager Joe Girardi discuss Mariano Rivera’s injury last week. It will be the first time that Pettitte will not have Rivera on the active roster as the same as him for an extended period.
“That’s terrible,” he said. “Obviously my decision to come back was made between me and my family and a lot of thinking about that. But I’ll tell you, Mo was pushing really hard for me to come back hard also and try to do this thing one more time here and hopefully bring a championship to New York. To see him go down was extremely disappointing for me. He’s absolutely amazing and when you lose someone like him you just cannot replace that.”
Robertson recovers from blown save
After he left the Yankee clubhouse Wednesday night, David Robertson logged onto his Twitter account, @DRob30, to see how fans responded to him.
He also posted a few tweets of his own, saying:
“I expected to be slaughtered tonight on twitter, but the support, y’all have shown reminds me how amazing Yankee fans are.
“Tonight sucked, but if there is one thing Mo has shown me, it’s how important is to turn the page.
“And look, it’s already after midnight, which means it’s a new day. Let’s take this series tomorrow.”
If the Yankees are in a position to take the series during a close game in the ninth, Robertson might not be available since manager Girardi does not like using relief pitchers three games in a row.
Setback for Gardner
The Yankees were hoping to get left fielder Brett Gardner back by now. Gardner’s .424 on-base percentage is second on the team behind Derek Jeter and since he went on the DL, the Yankees have seen their on-base percentage slip from .352 to .341.
That will not happen, as Girardi said Gardner had a setback after playing in his second rehab game Wednesday.
Girardi said after Thursday’s win that Gardner re-strained the muscle and will not pick up a bat for 10 days.
“I don’t think this is going to be a three-month thing, but unfortunately I think we’re going to be without him four another 15 to 25 days,” Girardi said.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.