Andy Pettitte came to Yankees camp this spring as a special instructor, but now it looks like he will break camp with the team as a pitcher. The 39 year-old lefty signed a minor league deal with the Yanks yesterday and will earn $2.5 million if he makes the team. That’s considerably less than the Yankees will be paying A.J. Burnett to pitch for the Pirates, but funding has never been an issue in the Bronx.
The Yankees have attempted to improve upon a starting rotation that had to be considered their weakness by re-signing staff ace C.C. Sabathia and adding Free Agent Hiroki Kuroda. Michael Pineda was acquired in a trade with the Mariners and the aforementioned Burnett was sent packing. The addition of Pettitte further muddies the back end of a rotation that also includes candidates Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia. Nova compiled 16 wins as a rookie in 2011 but peripheral statistics suggest a regression is likely. Garcia made 25 starts for New York last season and could serve in a different role if Pettitte makes the rotation. Hughes struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness last season and his days in New York could be numbered. Hughes experienced a drop in velocity and the Pettitte signing could mean the Yankees are growing impatient with their first round pick in the 2004 draft.
Pettitte has been working out and staying in shape during the offseason and hinted that he may be interested in making a comeback. Yankees G.M. Brian Cashman expressed interest in Pettitte all along and reportedly offered the former Yankee a $10 million dollar contract prior to signing Kuroda for that same amount. Eight years ago Pettitte left the Yankees and signed a three-year Free Agent contract with the Astros. The Deer Park High School grad then talked Roger Clemens into coming out of retirement and joining him in Houston. A Clemens reunion would be unlikely this time around, but another former teammate of Pettitte’s could be an option for the Yankees. Roy Oswalt is still on the market and could still be available later this summer if the Yankees need rotation help for the stretch run.
At 39 years of age it’s hard to predict exactly how much Pettitte has left in the tank. Spending a year on the sidelines could turn out to be a positive for Pettitte, although his 2010 stats (11-3 with a 3.28 ERA) didn’t suggest it was time for him to hang up the spikes. Pettitte cited a desire to spend more time with his family as a major factor in his decision to retire. I guess that routine got old in a hurry. Cashman indicated that Pettitte will probably need a full seven weeks of preparation to be ready for game action, so look for Andy to crack the rotation some time in early May.