With 2013 looming, Pettitte focused on now
Lefty, Rivera could elect to return for another campaign in pinstripes
NEW YORK -- It has been the strangest of seasons for veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte.After a year in retirement, Pettitte decided to sign late, missed two months of the season with a broken left ankle, and for the second time in 2012, makes a highly anticipated start for the Yankees when he faces the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. Pettitte never thought it would transpire this way, in terms of his injury. And so, like Mariano Rivera, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Pettitte is considering returning next season. "I can probably say that when I came back, there was no chance, that this was a one-year deal," Pettitte said before the Yankees went out and beat the Rays, 6-4, on Sunday to retain their one-game lead in the American League East with 15 games to play. "But getting hurt and only having 60 innings right now when you were hoping to have a couple of hundred innings under your belt, it definitely gives me the option to consider coming back next year, that's for sure." Pettitte hasn't pitched since June 27, when he took a liner by Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman off his left ankle. The ball fractured Pettitte's fibula, and he has been in the healing and recovery process ever since. Rivera tore his ACL shagging fly balls during batting practice on May 3 before a game at Kansas City, ending his season. Prior to his injury, Rivera had not made a formal statement about his status for 2013, but at 42, there was speculation this one might be his last. Rivera has oscillated regarding whether he wants to come back, saying as late as July that he hadn't made up his mind. "I don't even know if I want to play next year," Pettitte said. "I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring. One day at a time." Pettitte and Rivera are both at the end of their contracts and will become free agents at the end of the season. Rivera is in the second year of a deal that paid him $15 million this season. Pettitte signed so late he lost a $10 million allotment when the Yankees added Hiroki Kuroda for the same amount of money. Pettitte ended up signing a one-year Minor League pact that paid him $2.5 million once he pitched in the Majors for the first time on May 13. But as two prongs of the remaining Core Three that includes captain and shortstop Derek Jeter, the five-time World Series champion pitchers would almost certainly be welcome back under the right financial conditions. "Mariano Rivera is one of the greatest Yankees of all time," Yankees president Randy Levine said on Sunday. "He said he'd like to come back. We'd love to have him back." And Pettitte? "Andy Pettitte is like Mariano Rivera," Levine said. "Let him get healthy, let him pitch and then we'll sit down and talk to him in the offseason. ... All those discussions and specifics will wait for the offseason." Pettitte, who turned 40 a week before his ankle injury, has been torn for years between continuing his career and retiring to his family life at home in Houston. That's why he opted to quit after the 2010 season. He said on Sunday that he still misses spending time with his four children, who range between the ages of seven and 18. "They're too old to just move them all to New York," Pettitte said. "But it's tough for me to spend the whole summer alone without my family." Thus, Pettitte again will consider his options in the offseason. "It's the same old story," Pettitte said. "I hate it. I wish I knew what I was going to do next year. But I'll get to the offseason and think about it, try to figure out if this is something I want to do again or not. I'm hoping to get a lot of work in still this year. So we'll see what happens as this season continues on." That sense of doubt is the reason why Pettitte decided to return so late this year, eventually signing on March 16. He missed most of Spring Training and had to build up arm strength in the Minor Leagues, saying earlier in the season that he disliked that approach and would never do it again because it separated him from his teammates. In the five weeks after his initial return and the injury Pettitte was 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA and 59 strikeouts against just 15 walks in 58 2/3 innings. But Pettitte was also a stabilizing force on the rest of pitching staff, and that impact went well beyond his numbers. "I thought we kind of got on a roll when he was here," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He pitched really well, and I think his presence is really important to our staff. Why? Just because of who he is and how he approaches the game, how he approaches his start, his work ethic and the success that he's had. That's huge." "He definitely solidifies our starting rotation," catcher Russell Martin said. "He just turns up the energy level. I feel like everyone feeds off his intensity level when he's out there. He's a gamer. Whether it's Spring Training or the World Series, he wants the ball, and I think everybody else on the team wants him to have the ball, too." Starting Tuesday, Pettitte will give it another try with the probability that he'll don the vaunted Yankees pinstripes again next season.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.