The Andy Pettitte comeback train, final destination 161st Street and River Ave., seamlessly passed yet another stop on Sunday in Tampa, Fla., where the left-hander propelled 47 pitches over four scoreless innings against the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers.
On Monday, the YES Network's Jack Curry reported that Pettitte is slated for a Friday rehab outing, one of four the left-hander will make before he returns to the big league mound in the Bronx.
The Pettitte update on Monday coincided with news that Michael Pineda had tossed his first bullpen session since leaving his final spring start with shoulder tendinitis. The 23-year-old flamethrower should make his first Minor League rehab appearance in the near future.
Pettitte and Pineda would give the Yankees seven starting pitchers for five spots, a baseball conundrum of the most enviable ilk. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova appear to be in no jeopardy of being lifted from the rotation. Two starters -- Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia -- are the obvious candidates to be asked to step aside.
A lot can change over the next three weeks, but the ETA for the Yanks' first tough rotation decision appears to be mid-May, when Pettitte is expected to don the pinstripes for a 14th regular season.
So far this year, Hughes has posted a 9.00 ERA while allowing more than two baserunners per inning over a pair of inefficient starts. His fastball velocity has not been the culprit like it was in 2011, however, and many believe the 25-year-old homegrown talent may still wind up regaining his old form.
Entering his first home start of the season on Monday against the Minnesota Twins, Garcia had not exactly pitched well enough to control his own destiny, either. In fact, the veteran was completely out of control in his first 2012 tilt on April 10, when he uncorked an American League-record-tying five wild pitches against the Baltimore Orioles.
The lack of command seemingly followed Garcia to Yankee Stadium on Monday, when the 35-year-old took the hill for his first home start of the season. The first inning wasn’t pretty for the Chief, who surrendered two runs on four straight two-out hits from the heart of the Twins order.
"You have two outs, you've got to put it away, no matter what," Garcia said of his rough first frame. "I don't care. You've got to put it away."
"The one thing we've seen Freddy be really good at is minimizing damage and making pitches with people on base," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But he gave a lot of two-out runs today, and that was the difference."
Although many hurlers would have been frazzled by such a frustrating initial inning, the righty returned to the hill for the second sans any signs that he was flustered in the least. The veteran finished his night after allowing five earned runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings. Despite a shaky ending, Garcia pitched great for much of Monday night. He walked none, fanned five and at one point retired 11 in a row.
The rotation competition will continue Thursday, when Hughes will oppose the Twins during the finale of this four-game set. Garcia’s next turn to toe the rubber is scheduled for Saturday in Boston, where the Chief will be truly tested. If he can pitch as well as he did during the middle of Monday’s outing, in the unfriendly confines of Fenway Park of all places, a rotation spot may be his for a while.