Pettitte excited for Tuesday return
Andy Pettitte will return to the Yankees on Tuesday to make his first start since June 27, and after watching the team struggle for the last 11 weeks, he knows the mission is clear.
“I’m looking forward to being back and trying to help this club do what we want to do, and that’s get to the postseason,” Pettitte told the media Thursday, minutes after manager Joe Girardi announced that the lefty would indeed make his return start against Toronto at Yankee Stadium Tuesday.
Pettitte’s status was a hot-button issue over the previous 24 hours or so, as he had declared himself “ready to go” after throwing a 55-pitch simulated game at Fenway Park. Girardi said he wanted to wait and see what happened after Pettitte’s scheduled doctor’s appointment on Friday, but an earlier conversation with doctors and team brass led to the decision to activate the lefty sooner.
“There was obviously a lot of talk, and they were concerned that they were rushing me, but I feel healthy and I just want to get back in the mix,” Pettitte said. “You don’t ever know what’s going to happen in the heat of the game, but I know my leg’s 100 percent.”
To that last point, Girardi had intimated on Wednesday that the results of a simulated game itself can’t always be trusted, as it happens in a controlled environment. However, five of the Yankees’ Minor League affiliates done for the season and Trenton just a few days away from joining them, so a true “rehab assignment” wasn’t possible – but as a veteran, that doesn’t bother Pettitte in the slightest.
“I just need to get out there, get in a Big League game, and go to battle with these guys,” Pettitte said. “I think I’d be a little concerned if I didn’t feel like my command was where it was – you kinda feel a little helpless out there when you’re not able to control the ball like you want to – but my command has been there in these simulated games.”
Pettitte will be on a pitch count of roughly 75 pitches Tuesday, and that will alleviate what the lefty feels is the biggest bug-a-boo surrounding his return.
“Like I said yesterday, the only thing that’s kind of an unknown is my stamina,” he said. “Again, my command might not be great; it’s a big league ballgame, it could be different. But I’ve felt really comfortable with all my pitches, my command’s been great, and I expect to do well.”
And, of course, the fact that the Yankees are in a hotly-contested race, one that as of Thursday has them tied for both the AL East lead and the second wild-card slot with Baltimore, will certainly help get the adrenaline flowing when he takes the mound on Tuesday.
“This is what you come back for; I’m looking forward to being back and helping this team win a championship, and I want to be part of that solution, not sitting there watching it.”
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES