Rounding Third: Pettitte no longer a luxury, but a necessity for Yanks

While Andy Pettitte does his part in the waste of time known as the Roger Clemens perjury retrial, the New York Yankees are desperately awaiting his return to the major leagues.

And for manager Joe Girardi, it can't come soon enough.

What started out as a nice little comeback story has developed into a situation in which the Yankees really need him to come back and not only pitch, but pitch well.

The Yankees rotation, considered a strength heading into spring training even before Pettitte shocked the baseball world and announced he was returning, is in shambles less than a month into the season, as the group has produced the second-highest ERA in the majors at 5.83.

Michael Pineda has been a disaster and is gone for the season after shoulder surgery, Freddy Garcia has already been demoted to the bullpen and it's gotten to the point with Phil Hughes that the Yankees are throwing him bouquets when he at least makes it to the sixth inning and only gives up three runs, as was the case on Tuesday.

CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are both unbeaten, but that has more to do with the Yankees' tremendous lineup, especially the case with the latter, as Nova is pitching to a 5-plus ERA. Hiroki Kuroda has actually been the best of the bunch, but even he has a losing record (2-3).

So, yeah, Pettitte can't get to New York soon enough. But it still looks as if he's another rehab start away from joining the big club. The target date could be the May 11-13 home series versus the Seattle Mariners.

"Everybody is looking forward to him coming back because of what he can add to our team not only on the field but in the clubhouse," Sabathia said.

"Everybody still needs to go out and do their job and perform and let somebody else make the decision on what's going to happen. I don't really think it has any effect on guys other than knowing we're going to get a really good pitcher back here in a couple of weeks."

First, though, Pettitte had to testify in the ongoing Clemens trial. On Wednesday, he actually may have helped out his former teammate, when he said he could have misunderstood a conversation where Clemens had said he used human growth hormone back in 1999 or 2000.

That's basically been his stance all along. Back in his 2008 deposition, Pettitte mentioned a few times he might have misunderstood Clemens. Although it appears there is no relationship between the two now, Pettitte clearly was uncomfortable testifying against his one-time mentor.

So why would the government make him such a key witness when his testimony would be shaky at best?

Maybe it was to find out if he had ever hit a home run, which was how they closed his portion of the proceedings on Wednesday. Other than to humiliate Chan Ho Park, who Pettitte did in fact homer off in 2006, it had absolutely no bearing on anything, other than to show what a complete farce and waste of time and money all this is.

With Pettitte's testimony picked apart by the defense, the prosecution's star witness is now trainer Brian McNamee. Good luck proving his credibility.

Clemens is probably going to walk and, of course, once again proclaim his innocence. But like, Barry Bonds, Ryan Braun and others, he's already been found guilty in the court of public opinion.

But off the soap box and back to actual on-field goings-on, where Pettitte will indeed have an impact on a Yankees team that despite all its pitching problems still finds itself three games over .500 and just 2 1/2 games back of first place in the ultra-competitive AL East.

By the way, how crazy is it that here we are in 2012 and the Yankees are waiting on Pettitte to come save their season, while Derek Jeter is holding down the offense with a major-league best 40 hits and an AL-best .400 average?

And, oh yeah, Mariano Rivera is still the best reliever in the game.

Are we still living in 1996?