Andy Pettitte makes his return to the New York Yankees on Sunday against the Seattle Mariners. The most amazing part of Pettitte's return to the New York Yankees after retiring following the 2010 season is how badly the Yankees need Pettitte to be good.
Make no mistake, this is not a curiosity for the Yankees. It may have seemed that way in Spring Training when the team announced that the 39-year-old left-hander had decided to try a comeback. At that time the Yankees seemed flush with starting pitching, feeling good enough about what they had to deal A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Since Pettitte announced his comeback, though, the Yankees have watched Michael Pineda go down for the season with a torn labrum. They lost closer Mariano Rivera for the season. They watched Freddy Garcia pitch so badly that they banished him to the far, far end of their bullpen. They have watched Phil Hughes pitch to a 6.67 ERA thus far. They have given rookie David Phelps, who was not even supposed to make the team this season, a pair of starts.
The Yankees have CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda at the front of their rotation and, surprisingly considering where they were a couple of months ago, nothing but question marks after that.
Entering Sunday, Pettitte becomes one of those question marks. In 2010 Pettitte went 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts, making the American League All-Star Team. He has won 240 big-league games. Yet, after a year away from the game Pettitte and the Yankees have no idea what to expect.
"I feel like I'm gonna be good. I'm not gonna know until I get in a big-league game and know exactly where I'm at," Pettitte said Wednesday on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio New York. "It's time to get up here, it's time to do this."
The Yankees, who find themselves lagging behind in the American League East and need answers to the plethora of pitching questions they face, cannot afford for Pettitte not to be good.