It was a picture-perfect day in the Bronx as the Yanks battled the Seattle Mariners. The sun was up, the sky was clear and there was a buzz in the air. Today marked the return to the mound by Andy Pettitte, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
The Yankees have been slow to start considering where many thought they would be by now during spring training. They have had to deal with numerous injuries to key players, including to Michael Pineda and Mariano Rivera, who are mostly likely done for the entire season.
The pitching struggled in April and even saw Freddy Garcia demoted to the bullpen. Even though he now seems locked in, CC Sabathia's ERA did not reflect his wins record in April. Phil Hughes looked terrible in the rotation, but now seems to be in control in his last two starts, as he has saved his spot in the rotation.
Andy Pettitte's return was anticipated and welcomed by the fans not only for nostalgic reasons, but for what he can do for the Bronx Bombers as well. Especially with the absence of Rivera, Pettitte's leadership and experience is a necessity for the young bullpen.
"I'm excited," Pettitte said earlier this week. "So excited to just get back in uniform and get back with the guys, and just hang with them on the bench and stuff like that. The fans [coming to see] me making my starts down in the Minor Leagues, that's just been awesome and stuff like that. It's time now."
"I think that now that everyone's starting to throw the ball better, it takes a little pressure off of him," Girardi said. "I think people were looking at him coming back and being somewhat of a guy that can stabilize the rotation. Now, it looks like it's stabilizing more before he got here."
Girardi said he hopes to see Pettitte pitch at 88 mph early on this season, and hopes that Pettitte's adept ability to self correct on the mound will remain.
"He understands what he needs to do -- to get his sinker down, or to get more depth on his curveball," Girardi said. "I think he knows how to make those adjustments. The one thing I don't think he's forgotten how to do is how to pitch and how to make adjustments. I think adjustments, sometimes, as you get older are maybe a little bit easier because you've had to make them along the way."
On Sunday afternoon, Pettitte entered the game and left the game with a standing ovation from the crowd. He went six-and-one-third innings, allowing seven hits, four earned runs, three walks and two strikeouts on 94 pitches for a recorded loss. Pettitte seemed to have a few problems with his command, but this could easily be addressed and adjusted with more practice and more game time.
Pettitte brings a sense of comfort and normalcy back to New York. His first outing was not a perfect return, but it did prove one thing for certain. Pettitte still has the ability to go the distance in the game, and his velocity looks as if it hasn't changed from 2010, which is nothing but hopeful for the Yanks as the season progresses.