By Ernie Palladino
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It’s hard to believe any team would be waiting with baited breath for the return of a septuagenarian left-hander. But that’s the situation in which the Yankees find themselves.

Okay, so maybe Andy Pettitte is only 39. And yeah, maybe he retired and then got the itch back when he made a guest coaching appearance in spring training. And now he’s working his way back up after two strong starts in Single-A.

Still, it seems incongruous that the Yankees would need Pettitte’s aged cavalry to show up to bail out a pitching staff that has, at best, stumbled through the first nine games of the season.

Of CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and Freddy Garcia, only Nova has a winning record at 2-0. And most of that is because of the offense, not his arm. He basically got blasted in his last start against the Angels, giving up eight hits and four runs in six innings of an 11-5 victory. Among the hits were two homers, good for three runs.

Nova hasn’t lost at Yankee Stadium since May 12 of last season, and hasn’t lost in 14 games dating back to a June 3 setback in Anaheim. But that 4.15 ERA isn’t exactly a thing of beauty, though things could be much worse.

For that, we give you Phil Hughes. He’s carrying around a 9.00 ERA, and the way he’s going, he’ll wind up in the bullpen pretty soon. He’s probably going to get four more starts while Pettitte completes a six-start minor-league regimen that could have him ready for the pinstripes on May 10.

If Pettitte doesn’t have a physical setback, guess who’s the first to leave the rotation. Hint: The once-regarded phenom who has struggled through his last 25 starts with a 6.07 ERA.

The others shouldn’t get too full of themselves, though. Well, maybe Kuroda, whose 1-1 mark is accompanied by a very respectable 2.63 ERA. But Sabathia is above 5.00, and Garcia last night jumped his ERA to 6.97 after giving up five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Twins. Embedded in that performance were two Joe Mauer doubles and a sixth-inning homer to Justin Morneau.

Not good.

And we already know about Hughes and Nova.

So one can imagine how anxiously Joe Girardi and his gang await the return of a beloved, reliable Pettitte, even if the left-hander has been out of baseball for a year. He’s the best option at this point, seeing that there’s not a whole lot below. Even prospect Dellin Betances is struggling at 0-1, 10.80 in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre.

As hard as it is to say it, Pettitte could be the answer to the Yanks’ starters problems.

They just have to keep treading water until May 10, and then see what happens when the old man jumps back into the breach.

Do you think Pettitte will be able to prop up the Yankees’ struggling rotation? Sound off below!

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