Pettitte aims to build on impressive playoff resume
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TIMORE -- Andy Pettitte's comeback didn't exactly go as planned this season, but all of that will be forgotten once he takes the mound for Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
New York's veteran left-hander came out of retirement earlier this year with the goal of making at least one more run at the World Series. There were more roadblocks along the way than anticipated, but Pettitte will start with a fresh slate against division-rival Baltimore on Monday night (8 p.m. ET, TBS).
Pettitte has an opportunity to put an injury-riddled season in the past and build on his reputation as one of the most successful pitchers in postseason history.
"I think if you look at my numbers in the postseason, if you have enough opportunities, I think you are what you are," said Pettitte, who is the all-time winningest pitcher in postseason history with 19 victories. "I feel like that my numbers in the postseason are pretty similar what they are in my career.
"I'm a [beneficiary] of a lot of great teams with a lot of great players around here, having a whole lot of opportunities to do this, and you combine all that with, I feel like I have the ability to make pitches sometimes in some crucial situations, and you're going to be fairly successful."
Pettitte's road back began earlier this year when he surprisingly signed a Minor League contract in the middle of March. The agreement paved the way for Pettitte to rejoin the Yankees, but the timing ensured he would not be ready for the start of the season, with his official season debut not occurring until May 13.
Despite having not appeared in a big league game since 2010, Pettitte's return was relatively flawless early on. He went just 3-3, but posted an impressive 3.29 ERA while recording five quality starts in eight outings.
The feel-good story took a turn for the worse in late June, though, when it looked like Pettitte's comeback would be cut short. He suffered a fractured left ankle when he was struck by a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman on June 27.
Key stat: His 19 wins and 263 innings are the most in postseason history.
Key stat: Led O's in wins, ERA, strikeouts, innings and quality starts.
At Camden Yards
Career: 24 G (23 GS), 16-4, 4.11 ERA
2012: 17 GS, 6-6, 4.11 ERA
Career: 17 GS, 6-6, 4.11 ERA
Against this opponent
Career: 27-6, 3.52 ERA, 253 1/3 IP
2012: 4 GS, 1-2, 5.25 ERA Career: 4 GS, 1-2, 5.25 ERA
Loves to face: J.J. Hardy, 1-for-15 (.067), 2 K, 0 BB Hates to face: Adam Jones, 6-for-17 (.353), 1 3B, .824 OPS
Loves to face: Ichiro Suzuki, 0-for-5, 1 K Hates to face: Robinson Cano, 3-for-11, 1 HR, 1 2B
Why he'll win: Allowed two ER or fewer in eight of 12 starts this year; is 5-1 with 2.84 ERA in last 10 playoff
Why he'll win: Has been team's most consistent starter; O's are 19-13 when he starts.
Pitcher beware: Hasn't gone more than six innings or thrown 100 pitches in three starts since returning from DL.
Pitcher beware: Against LHP, Yanks ranked first in Majors in R (272) and HR (78) and second in OBP (.339); Chen allowed seven runs, 3 HR his last start vs. NYY.
Bottom line: Proven postseason winner.
Bottom line: Must step up; hasn't won since Aug. 19.
Pettitte was originally ruled out for six weeks, but the discomfort lingered and he wasn't able to return until Sept. 19 against the Blue Jays.
"It was definitely not ideal, that's for sure," Pettitte said of his 2012 season. "I figured whenever I told the Yankees that I was going to come back, that we'd work something out and I would have been there from the very get-go of the season.
"So to start the season a month or so late was obviously awkward, to still be down there in Tampa and know that your team is up here playing was awkward, and then a thrill to come back and to feel like I kind of settled in and was doing some of the things that I would be able to do. ... To get hurt, to miss what I thought would be four weeks to six weeks and ended up being almost three months was extremely disappointing."
With the postseason rapidly approaching, Pettitte only had time to make three starts before the end of the year. He went 2-1 with three earned runs in 16 2/3 innings, while striking out 10 and walking six.
The 40-year-old wasn't able to throw more than 94 pitches in any of the outings and admitted that his legs felt fatigued late in those games. Despite the lack of preparation time, Pettitte said he feels prepared and it's possible a nine-day layoff in between outings could prove beneficial.
"I feel good about it, I'm ready to go," said Pettitte, who was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts this year. "Like I've said, I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, I think the only thing I can say is I'm ready. I'm going to quit analyzing what I had at the end of the season.
"It's a whole new season now, a whole different ballgame, and I'm going to go out there and hopefully I can get in a good rhythm, get a good feel for my pitches, and that's all I'm looking for."
Just one year ago, Pettitte threw out of the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 of the ALDS between the Tigers and Yankees. Now, he has been tasked with silencing one of the league's most powerful offenses.
It will be a special moment for Pettitte who wasn't sure an experience like this would happen again. It also will be one more opportunity to add to an impressive postseason career which has seen him go 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 42 starts.
Ironically, Pettitte's illustrious postseason career began when former Yankees manager Buck Showalter handed him the ball for Game 1 of the 1995 ALDS against Seattle. Showalter is now in charge of the O's, and had nothing but glowing things to say about his former hurler.
"This time of year talent plays," Showalter said. "He is talented, and that's why he's still capable of giving his team a chance to win ... he's a talented young man. I felt at that time that Andy hadn't had that much experience under his belt, but that wasn't some astute evaluation to start him.
"Those things are easy. I'm sure the Yankees fans and baseball in general feel fortunate to have been around to see Andy pass their way, because he's a good father, good husband, good teammate, and a guy that it's important to him to be consistent and be there."
If Showalter's decision to start Pettitte in 1995 against was easy then this move was a no-brainer for current Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Pettitte has already pitched in 16 Game 2's and isn't likely to shy away from the pressure-packed environment at Camden Yards.
Pettitte's season might not have gone smoothly, but all it was ever designed for was to get him ready for this moment.
"We got to where we want to be, we're in the position we wanted to be in," Pettitte said. "This is what I was hoping to have the opportunity to do, and so that's exciting for me, personally."