David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Last night's rainout was not the ideal situation for the Yankees, but things could have been worse. They could have spent the afternoon like the Blue Jays did -- managing the fallout from Yunel Escobar's unfortunate decision to write a homophobic slur on his eye-black stickers.
On the list of least-favorite activities for a franchise, that had to be somewhere in the top 10. It made the Red Sox's repeated, and tension-filled mop-up jobs of Bobby Valentine this season seem like a beery, exuberant, seventh-inning sing-along of "Sweet Caroline."
But the Yankees have their own problems looking down the stretch, and getting washed out Tuesday night is likely to have an impact on the Yankees' playoff push -- and beyond.
Joe Girardi was so convinced there would not be a game that he didn't even bother to write down a lineup. Or so he says. Knowing what a stickler for preparation Girardi is, it's probably spelled out in his breakfast bowl of Alpha-Bits.
In this case, however, the Yankees' manager now has more time to sleep on a few ideas before the series resumes with Wednesday's doubleheader. And despite how difficult it can be to sweep, two consecutive days off may have helped on a few different fronts.
Giving Derek Jeter another night off his feet won't hurt; it sounded like Girardi wasn't ready to put him back at shortstop. Jeter probably needs a prolonged period of rest to ultimately fix the bone bruise in his left ankle. But with only 16 games left, a quick recharge should help convince Girardi to return him to shortstop, possibly in time for one of Wednesday's games.
While Andy Pettitte insisted he didn't mind as much getting pushed back and having to pitch Game 1 -- "I'm an early bird," he said -- the rainout did cut his scheduled number of starts down from four to three. Now, if the Yankees find themselves in that dreaded one-game, wild-card playoff, it would fall on Pettitte's turn, adding more drama to an already eventful comeback season.
"Whatever," Pettitte said. "I can't control the weather. I'm just ready to get out there . . . I've been rained out plenty."
The problem is figuring out what Pettitte can actually contribute at this stage after missing nearly three months with a fractured fibula. The Yankees have talked optimistically about what Pettitte could give them when he did eventually return, but there's no way of knowing until he takes the mound. "I'll be able to tell y'all at 5 o'clock tomorrow," Pettitte said before packing up Tuesday night.
Another issue is what effect Pettitte might have on the bullpen, which has to contend with a pair of games Wednesday -- and without the long-relief help of David Phelps, who will start Game 2. Girardi plans to keep Pettitte on a 70-75 pitch count, and that could mean anywhere from a rocky three innings to a smooth six.
"We'll see how it goes," Girardi said.
Pettitte was relieved about one thing. If the weather improves Wednesday, he'll finally get the chance to talk about a game he's pitched rather than the endless discussions about looking ahead to one. That's all he's been doing for weeks, and win or lose, it will be satisfying to have a few of his own questions answered.
As for the Yankees, they'd like to know, too. With so much still up in the air -- from Jeter's ankle to Mark Teixeira's calf -- getting a read on Pettitte would allow them to check one of those boxes as Girardi tries to map out the next two weeks. But in the midst of such a heated division race, cooling off with a little rain Tuesday didn't seem like such a bad break.
Let's see if it feels the same late Wednesday night.