Andy Pettitte stood on the mound again Sunday at the Stadium, pitching against his fellow former Yankees as a first-timer at Old-Timers’ Day. Earlier, the 46-year-old lefty had stood near the dugout as a first-time grandpa, holding his new tiny treasure.
“It’s just amazing,” Pettitte said about being a grandfather, which began six weeks ago with the birth of Preslee Pettitte, his son Josh’s baby girl. “I don’t know how to explain it. I hold her and I sit there and just stare at her. I could stare at her all day long.”
Grandpa Pettitte also has five World Series rings to stare at from his days in pinstripes. The “Core Four” member looks at the Yankees’ current core of Baby Bombers and experienced hands and sees the potential for this team to claim the franchise’s first championship since 2009, when Pettitte went 4-0 in the postseason.
“I do. I mean, 100 percent,” said Pettitte, now a high school pitching coach in Houston. “There is so much talent. Obviously, it’s all going to dictate on the health, right? But as strong as the bullpen is and the way this lineup swings the bat, I think they’ve got a great chance to be successful, especially with the experience they got last year to be able to get as close as they did.
“The goal here every year is to win a championship. You don’t always want to win one championship. You almost feel like with this group of players, hopefully you can pull off several of them.”
Several other old-timers at the 72nd annual event said they see the same championship traits.
“They’ve got this great young talent, veteran pitching, great bullpen,” said Jason Giambi, another first-time old-timer. “So they have all the makings of a championship team, no doubt about it . . . They have everything. They can run the bases. They can hit homers. They’re an incredible team.”
Johnny Damon sees one similarity between this team and his 2009 title team. “This team is built a little different, but this team is built to win,” he said. “I love the lineup.”
The Yankees are 46-21 after Tampa Bay avoided a four-game sweep with a 3-1 win Sunday.
“If their pitching stays healthy, there’s no reason they can’t compete for a world championship,” former Yankees player, coach, manager and general manager Lou Piniella said.
But their starting pitching hasn’t stayed healthy. Masahiro Tanaka is down with two strained hamstrings and Jordan Montgomery is lost for the season after Tommy John surgery.
“I think everybody in the front office and [general manager Brian Cashman] have been very open about trying to go out and get another arm in the rotation,” said Nick Swisher, now a special adviser to Cashman.
Swisher delivered the highlight moment in his first Old-Timers’ Game, sending a fat pitch from Jeff Nelson into the second deck in rightfield for a three-run homer.
“Just to be able to run back on that field one more time,” Swisher said, “there’s no better feeling than that.”