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Keefe: Yankees Fortunate Andy Pettitte’s Retirement Wasn’t Real

Where would the Yankees be without Andy Pettitte?
(Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

(Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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By Neil Keefe
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So maybe those comparisons of these Yankees to the 2008 Yankees were a little premature? Can you blame me for thinking my summer might be ruined when Mariano Rivera went down and then David Robertson along with Michael Pineda, Joba Chamberlain and what has now been nearly two months of no Brett Gardner?

With the disabled list more crowded than a New Haven-bound Metro North train on a Friday at 5 and the heart of the order lacking power, it made sense to start getting worried about this team. After a 10-3 run here over the last couple weeks, the Yankees are tied in the loss column with the Orioles for first place in the division and have moved ahead of the Rays for the first time this season.

The problems with consistent production from the middle of the order still exist and the team-wide issue of hitting with runners in scoring position is still very much a concern. But the Yankees have put together this run that started on May 22 with their starting pitching. Here are the lines for the Yankees’ starters over the last 13 games:

May 22 – Phil Hughes vs. KC: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

May 23 – Andy Pettitte vs. KC: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

May 25 – Ivan Nova vs. OAK: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

May 26 – CC Sabathia vs. OAK: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

May 27 – Hiroki Kuroda vs. OAK: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

May 28 – Phil Hughes vs. LAA: 5.1 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

May 29 – Andy Pettitte vs. LAA: 7 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

May 30 – Ivan Nova vs. LAA: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K

June 1 – CC Sabathia vs. DET: 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

June 2 – Hiroki Kuroda vs. DET: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

June 3 – Phil Hughes vs. DET: 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K

June 5 – Andy Pettitte vs. TB: 7.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K

June 6 – Ivan Nova vs. TB: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

If Phil Hughes is going to throw quality starts on a consistent basis (and maybe throw in a complete game here and there), and Ivan Nova is going to follow suit (and maybe nearly throw a complete game here and there) then maybe the Yankees rotation is as good as people thought it could be before the season. But for as good as things are going, I don’t know if people want to start counting on and relying on Hughes and Nova to consistently dominate, and that’s why it’s important that the Yankees can lean on CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. And this begs the question of where the Yankees be without Andy Pettitte? The answer: the past tense of a certain expletive.

When Pettitte surprised everyone by announcing his return and accepting a minor-league deal for the same amount of money he’s used to making in about two weeks of work I thought for that amount of money maybe Pettitte will go through the end of spring training and decide it’s not worth it. But really I knew that Pettitte wasn’t going to unretire and leave his family after a full year with them for what is an insignificant amount of money to him if he didn’t have the desire to return and compete at the same level he did in the first half of 2010.

It’s comical now that a little over two months ago Yankees fans were worried about who would come out of the rotation or go to the bullpen or go to Triple-A with seven starters for five spots. Everyone was excited about the idea of Pettitte returning and everyone enjoys a good comeback story, but there were plenty of people skeptical about how he would perform and whether or not it would be worth it to remove a young starter from the rotation and sacrifice developing young pitching for a 39-year-old who hasn’t started since the 2010 ALCS. All of those ideas and notions seem ridiculous now that Pettitte has become the team’s best starter (sorry CC).

I never wrote a Goodbye piece for Andy Pettitte when he “retired” after the 2010 season, and thankfully I didn’t (mainly because it would have been a waste of time and words given his comeback) since I’m not good at saying goodbye, especially to members of the Core Four. Now I’m just happy Pettitte isn’t good at saying goodbye either.

Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilKeefe