By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, September 19- Andy Pettitte was again wearing the Yankees pinstripes on Tuesday preparing to pitch in his first major league game since June 27. In that contest nearly three months ago, Pettitte’s left ankle was fractured by a ground ball.
Pettitte was not attempting to come back for the first time this week. He retired after the conclusion of the 2010 season. His desire to play again resurfaced and he signed a $2.5 million contract with the Yankees for the 2012 season.
May 13 was the date of Pettitte’s first start of the season. Although Pettitte was the losing pitcher in that contest, he gave up no runs in his start five days later. In nine starts this year, the veteran lefty is 3-3 with an impressive ERA of 3.22. In only one of his previous seasons with New York, 1997, was Pettitte’s ERA lower than it is this season.
The 40-year old gave an honest appraisal of how events could transpire in his comeback start, “[If] I can get a rhythm and have my command, I feel like I’ll throw the ball well. If not, I’m going to get knocked around.”
The hope of the Yankees that Pettitte’s first game would be on Tuesday was dashed by the inclement weather as the night games of the Yanks and Mets were cancelled. It was also hoped that Pettitte would get four starts before the regular season ends. This desire of the Yankees now becomes impossible as his first start was the day game played on Wednesday afternoon.
Fortunately for the Yanks, Pettitte was extremely impressive on the mound. He threw five more pitches than the anticipated 70. He showed no rust after his three month absence just as he picked things up after missing the entire 2011 season.
Pettitte was pleased with the outing although he was sorry for the delay of one day, “All in all, it was good. I was able to get through it and make pitches when I had to get out of some innings.”
Pettitte gave up only four hits and walked two batters. He fanned three in his five innings on the hill. Toronto runners reached third in the second, third and fourth innings, but none crossed the plate during Pettitte’s stint.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke about the veteran’s effectiveness in dangerous situations, “You have confidence in Andy because he knows how to get the double-play ball or the strikeout and make the big pitch. You know he’s not going to be overwhelmed by the situation.”
Base hits by Ichiro Suzuki, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano in the first led to three runs for the Yanks. As Pettitte hurled five frames and left the contest with the score 3-0 in favor of the Yanks, he earned his fourth win of the season.