Pettitte close, Gardner not close
There was some good news and bad news before Thursday’s night finale of the Yankees-Rays series.
First, the good news: Andy Pettitte spoke to reporters on a phone hookup from his Westchester County residence and expressed excitement and anxiety over his start Sunday at Yankee Stadium against the Mariners that will mark his return to the majors for the first time since 2010.
“I’m looking forward to hanging with the guys on the bench,” Pettitte said. “The way the fans have been following me in the minors has been awesome, but it’s time now.”
Time for the majors is what Andy meant. The lefthander had been perceived as a luxury for the Yankees as he prepared to return to the rotation, but with the inconsistency among the starting pitchers to this point Pettitte is now being expected to bring some stabilization to that group.
“I know what they expect of me on the field and in the clubhouse,” he said. “Maybe I can take some of the stress off them. My legs are under me well. My body is still trying to figure out the every fifth day routine. There’s just a little bit of anxiety. It’s all about getting into a rhythm.”
One big difference for Pettitte from when he last pitched for the Yankees is that he won’t have Mariano Rivera in the bullpen to be in position possibly to save a winning decision for him.
“My family obviously was the major factor, but Mo was pushing me hard to come back,” Pettitte said. “To see him go down was extremely disappointing. He is someone you can’t replace.”
Now the bad news: Brett Gardner had a setback in his injury-rehabilitation stint and may be hurt more seriously than originally thought. Gardner played the entire game for Triple A Scranton Wednesday night (1-for-2, 1 triple, 2 walks 1 run) but reported discomfort in an area near his bruised right elbow. He was scheduled for another magnetic resonance imaging exam.
“The plan was to have him here [Thursday],” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We miss him, the way he puts pressure on the other teams’ defense with his speed. We miss his presence in left field.”
Gardner’s absence has been overlooked somewhat because Raul Ibanez has hit so well (.269, 5 HR, 16 RBI) filling in as the left fielder, but the Yankees could use the energy Gardner brings to each game not only as a catalyst offensively but as a defender. He is the best fielding left fielder in the American League and perhaps in the majors.