Despite being a fan favorite, most Yankees fans didn't know what to expect from the return of veteran pitcher Andy Pettitte this spring. Would his age slow him down? Did he lose a step? Will he be the old Andy? These were just some of the questions that surrounded Pettitte a couple of months ago, when Brian Cashman made the announcement of Pettitte's return to the Bronx after more than a year-long absence from the game.
These questions have been answered early on in the season based on Pettitte's early success on the mound. He slid into the starting rotation quite easily and the early tension that seemed to envelope the early struggles of the rotation began to fade.
Pettitte has exceeded most expectations on the mound so far. Pettitte currently has a 3-2 record with a 2.81 ERA and most importantly, he is pitching deep into games. His performance thus far has made it appear as if he never left the team or the league.
Pettitte has won three of his last five starts and has uncharacteristically struck out 40 batters in 41 2/3 innings. For his career, Pettitte has about two strikeouts for every three innings pitched.
"People ask me about all the strikeouts, and I can't explain it," said Pettitte, who whiffed a season-high 10 Rays on June 5 and another eight Mets on Sunday. "I feel like I'm throwing the ball well, and it feels good coming out of my hand. I'm just going to roll with it."
The Yankees are in stride right now, coming off of two consecutive series sweeps against the Mets and the Braves. The Yanks enter into the next interleague series tonight against the hot Washington Nationals, which features Phil Hughes going up against Gio Gonzalez . Both the Yankees and the Nationals are coming off of six-game winning streaks.
Pettitte feels confident and ready for Saturday's start against righty Jordan Zimmermann, despite worries from the fans and the staff of any effects from his bruised hand. However, all X-rays and further tests were negative for any damage to his hand after stopping and grabbing a routine grounder during the Mets game last Sunday.
"It feels fine -- there were no problems out there today," Pettitte said. "I'm good to go. I've never pitched in that ballpark, and I'm looking forward to it."
Yankees fans are thrilled with the performance Pettitte has brought to the mound this summer and the intangibles that a player of his status brings to the clubhouse and field on a daily basis. Pettitte's pitching arsenal seems to be fully intact at this point. Therefore, his health has become the main focus and as long as he keeps pitching the way he is, the Yankees will continue to be prime for a title run in October.
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