UPDATED: Officially announced his retirement on Feb. 4th after 16 seasons.
The offseason Andy Pettitte Watch is Brett Favre-esque though far less annoying. Pettitte, when healthy, was 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA and is as clutch in the postseason as anyone on the market. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004.
To throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Pettitte's presence will be a poignant reminder of how much he meant to the Yankees. It's sure to bring down the house for a fan base that even today is pining for the 39-year-old lefthander to put on the pinstripes again. Not just because of how beloved Pettitte is, but because of the continuing unsettled nature of the Yankees' rotation.
Starting pitching is a February question that has lingered into October. Do they have enough? It's the one question that, when finally answered, will have revealed the most about whether the Yankees win it all or go home early. Both are possible.
Pettitte's presence could be a painful reminder of how much his decision to retire could hurt the Yankees -- especially if Game 2 starter Freddy Garcia pitches Sunday the way he has in three of his last four regular-season starts.
That is to say, poorly.
Pettitte was at the Stadium Saturday afternoon while his wife, Laura, practiced the national anthem she is going to sing before Sunday's game. The all-time leader in postseason wins wasn't getting ready to start a playoff game. He was holding his wife's purse and jacket inside the dugout. "What a difference a year makes," he said to a small group of reporters inside the dugout.
A year ago, Pettitte started and won Game 2 of the ALDS against the Twins. On Saturday, he looked as if he were in good enough shape to take the mound for real Sunday. Is he ready?
"No, I'm not ready," he said, laughing. "So it doesn't matter."
Asked if he's picked up a ball lately, Pettitte said yes. But it was a football, and he played with his sons.
He'll grab a baseball Sunday and throw that ceremonial first pitch. Betcha it'll be to his old batterymate, Jorge Posada. It was supposed to be a surprise, but once Pettitte was spotted in the dugout in a gray sweatshirt and jeans, the secret was all over the Twitter-verse.
After Pettitte is done with that pitch, he will walk off the mound to what is sure to be thunderous applause. Garcia will take the hill to pitch the game. No disrespect to the crafty righty, but that's a bit of an emotional comedown for Yankees fans and a concern for the Yankees, who also have to deal with the loss of a second CC Sabathia start because of Friday's suspended game.
ALDS Game 2 was Pettitte's showcase from 1995-2003 and then again in 2007 and 2010. In the 15 previous Division Series involving the Yankees, Pettitte started 11 Game 2s. He won five times and lost twice. The Yankees went 7-4 in those games.
Pettitte wasn't perfect, but there was an expectation he would do well. No matter what the Yankees say, only Sabathia carries that to the mound with him now.
"Obviously, our rotation was talked about all year long," Joe Girardi said before Saturday night's resumption of Game 1. "I mean, from the day I got in spring training, that's all we talked about. Our rotation, our rotation, our rotation. Our rotation did OK. We won a lot of games this year. So I believe in these guys."
Girardi has to say he believes in his guys. What else is he going to say? But the sight of Pettitte bringing that left arm forward Sunday could remind him of what it's like to start a pitcher in the playoffs that you truly believe in.