Thirty-nine-year-old pitcher Andy Pettitte has come out of retirement to sign a one-year minor league deal with the New York Yankees. According to the YES Network’s Jack Curry, Pettitte agreed to the deal this afternoon. He will make as much as $2.5 million if he pitches in the big leagues this season.
Pettitte last pitched in the major leagues in 2010 when he posted an 11-3 record and a 3.28 ERA through 21 starts while donning pinstripes. He announced his retirement the following winter, hanging it up after sixteen big league seasons –thirteen with the Yankees– and a career full of accolades. One of his era’s most successful lefthanders, Pettitte led the Yankees to five World Series championships and he’s the MLB’s all-time leader in postseason wins.
When Pettitte announced his retirement a year ago, he told the media “I’m done, that’s it. I do not plan on pitching again (but) you can never say never.”
After leaving the game to spend time with his family, Pettitte returned to the Yankees as a special instructor last month. Spending the past three weeks with the Yankees, tossing batting practice and undertaking various coaching duties, Pettitte got the itch to return to the mound. He threw a bullpen session for Yankees coaches on Thursday before sitting down with GM Brian Cashman and inking his new deal today.
Cashman told the media that Pettitte will begin the season in the minor leagues and will work his way back to Major-League form. Pettitte’s contract doesn’t include any performance incentives, but will be worth $2.5 million in total once he’s added to the active roster. Cashman also stated that Pettitte would only be used as a starting pitcher and would not pitch out of the bullpen.
With the addition of Pettitte, the Yankees have seven starters– C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Freddy Garcia are the others– for five rotation spots. Pettitte’s minor league deal will allow him to begin the season in triple-A, and it appears that Freddy Garcia will move to the bullpen in deference to Phil Hughes for the short term. Though Hughes has found plenty of success as a reliever in the past, the Yankees are dead-set on keeping him in the rotation. So far this spring, he looks sharp and healthy, with increased fastball velocity.
Pettitte left the game with plenty of gas in the tank, earning his third All-Star Game appearance in 2010. He won’t celebrate his 40th birthday until June and his grueling workout regiment has always helped him play younger than his age. His premium command and second-nature understanding of pitching will help expedite his return as well. As long as his fastball velocity can return to the 89-90ish mph range he should still be a plenty-effective left-handed starter.
Pettitte’s place in the Yankees’ plans is unclear, but having a surplus of quality starting pitching is a luxury that any team would love to have. More importantly, his vast postseason experience could prove valuable next fall.