Philadelphia, PA – Now that the dust has settled and the shock has worn off from the announcement on Friday that Andy Pettitte would be returning to the New York Yankees, the question has to be asked: who's spot is he taking?
You didn't think Pettitte was coming back to the Yankees be a left-handed specialist did you?
So, who's out?
The Yankees already had a wealth of starting pitchers in camp with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia and Michael Pineda. Sabathia and Kuroda were rotation locks, and most believed Pineda was too. However, that hasn't been the case, leaving him, Nova, Hughes and Garcia in a battle to round out the staff.
Pettitte will join the rotation as soon as he is ready, meaning there are two spots for four guys.
"If you don't want someone to take your job, go out and pitch well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Hughes was once the apple of the organization's eye and already has an 18-win season under his belt in 2010. Even with an awful season last year, as long as he doesn't completely blow up this spring - which he hasn't by the way - he'll head north with the club as part of their rotation.
Technically Hughes could start the year at Triple-A since he still has an option, but that is a long shot. It's always been his spot to lose and he has pitched well this spring.
Some have suggested that Hughes could pitch in the bullpen, as he did so effectively for the team in their 2009 championship season. That ship has sailed, though. New York's bullpen is one of the best in baseball with David Robertson and Rafael Soriano already entrenched as Mariano Rivera's setup men, nevermind the fact that they don't want to mess with his arm. Having Hughes pitch in a relief role would just be a waste at this point.
Nova won 16 games last season, but also has an option. Not many people would bat an eye if he were to start the year down in the minors. Still, you'd have to think Girardi favors him a bit since he was the team's best pitcher down the stretch last season.
Garcia seems to be the most miffed of anyone with the addition of Pettitte. But as long as he is healthy Garcia's going to be on the final 25 either in the rotation or in the bullpen, where he has pitched just twice in 329 big league appearances. Now if one of the young guys emerges here in the final few weeks, he's out.
"I don't really care," Garcia said of the Yankees adding Pettitte. "That's their decision. I'm here to pitch and that���s what I want to do. You play with the Yankees, nothing surprises you."
Either way, with what has been heard all spring it looks like the odd man out is going to be Pineda, the 23-year-old right-hander who was acquired from the Seattle Mariners this offseason for the highly-coveted Jesus Montero.
Despite being an All-Star last season as a rookie, since the start of camp you kind of had the feeling that Pineda was going to be pitching for the Yanks' Triple-A team at the start of the year anyway.
All we've heard all spring is that Pineda is out of shape and that his changeup needs a lot of work. Then you add in the fact that his velocity is down nearly 3-to-4 mph from last season and you have a lot of people within organization scratching their heads.
But then you delve a little further.
As long as the Yankees have a legitimate reason to have Pineda start the year at the minor league level, they'll be able to recoup an extra year of service time on him.
When did the Yankees become the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Aside from Pineda's troubles, the most prevailing story around Yankees camp this spring has been their desire to make sure they are under the luxury tax threshold a year from now.
Even though these are the Yankees, they desperately want that extra year of service time with Pineda. Pettitte won't be ready until May. It makes no sense to bring Pineda north if you are going to send him back down a month later and lose that year, especially when you have a veteran like Garcia there.
But back to Pettitte.
Why would he want to come back? What else does he have to prove? At 240 wins, he's likely never going to get to 300, plus he's already won five World Series championships. Why can't these players just ever ride into the sunset?
If Pettitte is anything near the pitcher he was for the Yankees in 2010, though, he will help. How could he not?
Pettitte was an All-Star with the Yankees in his last season with them after getting off to an 11-2 start. A groin injury, however, sidelined him for two months before he returned late in the season. He finished the campaign with a record of 11-3 and a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts.
The soon-to-be-40-year-old's worth, though, comes in October. Pettitte is the winningest pitcher in postseason history with a mark of 19-10 and a 3.83 ERA in 42 starts. He has pitched in the World Series eight times and owns a record of 5-4 with a 4.06 ERA in 13 Fall Classic starts.
"I don't think that I could do this unless I thought for sure mentally that I could get back to where I was," Pettitte said. "I really believe that mentally I'll be able to get back to where I was. I believe that if I'm mentally right, I'm going to win. I just believe that. Because I've pitched through so much stuff."
Just another typical spring in Yankees land.