New York Yankees: Andy Pettitte Aims for September 1 Return, Key to October Run

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IJuly 26, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27:  Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees stands on the mound he is checked on after he was hit with a batted ball in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium on June 27, 2012  in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

When Andy Pettitte went on the disabled list with a fractured ankle in late June, everyone speculated as to when the Yankees were going to make a trade to land a pitcher.

Instead, the team re-inserted long-reliever Freddy Garcia and the Yankees have done just fine with him in Pettitte's place, as the Yankees remain in first place in the A.L. East.

According to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN, Pettitte's x-rays on July 15 came back good and he was on track to start getting prepared to return to the team.

Pettitte no longer needs a walking boot or crutches and started throwing on flat ground, just four weeks after he was struck in the ankle by Casey Kotchman's grounder.

He has roughly around two weeks to go until August 9, which according to David Waldstein of The New York Times, is when Pettitte's ankle should be fully healed and ready to get into baseball shape again.

Since Pettitte right now is on the 60-day DL, he can't come off the DL on August 9, so he'll likely be doing some minor-league rehab assignments to get himself prepared for a return for the final weeks of the season.

Pettitte is 3-3 with a 3.26 ERA in nine starts for the Yankees and is expected to be eligible to come off the DL on August 27. Pettitte and the Yankees would like him to be back and active on the team right around the September 1 mark.

"It looks good," Pettitte told Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York. "It's healing up good. Doc said the break was about 50 percent closed up, so that's good. It was really good."

Pettitte said he doesn't think the positive results will change his six-week timetable to return. The 40-year-old veteran hopes to be back by Sept. 1.

I honestly feel Pettitte is the reason why the Yankees aren't making a run for guys like Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster or Zack Greinke, pitchers who are all expected to be traded by July 31.

Pettitte ultimately is one of the biggest keys if the Yankees are going to make a deep run into October. They knew this when he opted to come out of retirement and accept a one-year minor league deal and made his return to the team in May.

At the time of his injury, the 40-year-old had been pitching very well for the Yankees and was dominating the Indians lineup before taking a line drive off his ankle.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman has to be hoping for Pettitte to be back and as strong as he was when he went on the DL; if not, he would have made a trade for a pitcher by now.

Instead, he's gone with Garcia as the place-holder for Pettitte and then will wait for the final weeks to see if Pettitte can help with a run into October.

So far, the healing process has gone well for Pettitte and before we know it, No. 46 will be back in Yankee Stadium pitching in another big game for the Bombers.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.