Brian Cashman on Re-signing Andy Pettitte: “He can help us significantly. At the very least there’s no downside, nothing but upside.”March 19, 2012 – 6:00 am by Steven Cuce
Just when you thought you saw it all from Yankees camp, a bit of surprising news came about over the weekend. Andy Pettitte, who has appeared in seven World Series while wearing Yankees’ pinstripes, has decided to come out of retirement and give it another go.
After dispelling the notion that he would come out retirement last season to join what appeared to be at the time a weak starting rotation, No.46 has the itch to play once again. The only issue for Pettitte this year is that the Yankees went out and addressed their starting pitching issues by trading for Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda. The timing is just a little bit off for this signing, but you can never have enough starting pitching for a 162-game season.
This move comes at a low risk-high reward for the Bronx Bombers. Yankees brass has to be thinking if Pettitte is effective in July and August he could prove to be a difference maker if the team were to make it into the postseason in October. This is a special circumstance kind of signing for the Yankees, but there’s not a doubt in the organization’s mind that the left hander’s grind-it-out mentality and ruthless work ethic could still make him a viable starter at the age of 39 years old.
Brian Cashman joined WFAN in New York with Mike Francesa to discuss re-signing Andy Pettitte after a year of retirement, believing Andy Pettitte can still pitch effectively, the signing of Pettitte bolstering a strong pitching staff and the target date for when Pettitte should return to the Yankees pitching rotation.
Explain how this Andy Pettitte thing came about?
“First I was at the winter meetings in Dallas and Andy’s agent, Jim Murray, kind of mentioned to me, ‘Hey I just wanted to let you know I think Andy is thinking about some things. He may call you.’ I said is he calling me about playing? He goes, ‘Maybe. Maybe. I don’t know we’ll see.’ I just wanted to give you a heads up if you hear from him. Fair enough. Not too shortly after towards the end of December I get a call from Andy just saying hey he was caught off guard. He heard on an interview a comment I made basically asked me if I had talked with Andy, which I hadn’t and tried to see if he was willing to play. I said I hadn’t and I respected his retirement. I am not going to hassle him or bother him, but I know if he ever changed his mind I know he could still pitch. I guess somebody conveyed that to Andy or he heard it. It got him to start thinking and focusing on it and so he did call me and he shared that with me. I said well what are you telling me? He said, ‘I don’t know what I am telling you. I am telling you I am thinking about it.’ He said I would like to take 6 weeks to workout and physically if I get through that and feel the way I still feel this is something that I want to pursue. I want to know would you be there to sign me? I said well Andy I am talking to the Mariners right now about Michael Pineda in a deal for Jesus Montero. I told him about that. I told him I am talking about Hiroki Kuroda. I said I can’t tell you I will be there to sign you in 6 weeks if you are willing to work out and you want in. I might not have a spot for you then. We talked a lot about that and finally he basically understood that and said, ‘Hey you know what you are right. You got a job to do. You gotta do everything you can to improve us at all times.’ He always referred to it as ‘us,’ even when he was not a player with us last year. He said ‘How about this? You do everything to make this team better and try like you always do. I am going to work out for 6 weeks. If you haven’t done anything and I feel like I am ready to commit let’s talk.’ I said no problem and if you do something in between give me a call. We wound up trading for Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda around the 13th of January. The physicals weren’t done on the Pineda deal because Montero took about 10 days to get to Seattle because VISA’s and snow storms in Seattle, so around the 23rd and 24th of January I called Andy and said game over. He was about 3 or 4 weeks in, but I said we have done moves. We had actually done them earlier, but had to wait for the administrative moves and physicals to get through. I said our business is done. He said, ‘No, I understand it.’ He said great moves and he shut it down. That was it. I said hey if you are interested in coming in as a celebrity coach let us know, so he did. When he came into spring training in late February he was around the guys and had a great time. Right before he left he said I want to talk to you. He came in and shut the door and we sat down. He said, ‘Cash I shut it down for a 7-10 day period, but then I started throwing again cause I missed it. I feel good and now being around the guys and seeing all the things going on around here man I wanna play. I really wanna play. I wanna play bad.’ I said Andy I don’t have any money. I am done. I made moves there is nothing I can do and he said ‘I really wanna make this work.’ I said well let me get back to you and see if anything makes sense, but this is going to be really tough. Since late February and it’s now March the 16th we had to go through first can we fit him? How much could we pay him? Because what we talked about in the winter and what we can do now is totally different. What is he willing to play for? Is he willing to go the minors? Is he willing to be stretched out to audition and knock the rust off and go to the minor leagues and see how long it takes and have a full spring training and do all that type of stuff? Is he willing to do all those things at a certain number? I am talking with our owner about what is he willing to do? How much would he be willing to stretch when there is no stretch? Which ultimately lead us to where we are now, which he agreed to a minor league contract and get paid if he makes it $2.5 million dollars and that’s it. That’s where we are at.”
Are you taking this seriously? Is there any reason to believe he can’t be Andy Pettitte?
“No I don’t. It’s not like I’m signing a situation where it was a guy with big power and now he’s sat out a year. He’s pushing 40, so is the stuff still there? Andy went from the transition of being somewhat a power left-hander and not like Randy Johnson, but he was a power left-hander earlier in his career. He got hurt and then he became a pitch-ability left-hander, just like Freddy Garcia went from the transition of being a power right-hander to a pitch-ability right-hander. Andy has done that, so as long as he is healthy I think he would be effective. He’s not Jamie Moyer like in terms of that soft stuff, but Jamie has pitched into his 40’s because of his pitch-ability, so Andy clearly in my mind and my heart tells me that without a doubt, but then I got reinforcement. I talked with Gene Michael. I kept everyone out of this for a long time and I grabbed Gene Michael the other day and I had Gene Michael sit in the bullpen when he came down to throw a bullpen for us and I said what do you think about Andy Pettitte? He goes, ‘He can still pitch. No doubt. He just has to get into shape. No doubt.’ So that made me feel better. I’m in the front office and that is one of the best scouts in the history of the game. That helped me also, so at the end of it, if he is healthy and we can get him ready? I think he can help us. I think he can help us significantly. At the very least there’s no downside, nothing but upside. It’s one of those things where I told Hal Steinbrenner there’s no reason and this is too good of an opportunity to pass up and this has no reflection on what’s going on in our camp. We feel really good.”
So this is not a case of you being upset with your starters?
“Not at all. Not at all. We can address that if you want to on this call, but has nothing to do other than if this was any other pitcher that was available we would pass. I talked with…Mike Gonzalez is a free agent that is out there for a bargain. I approached Hal two weeks ago and said hey you know what maybe we should get in on this thing. He can help us in the bullpen and give us a left-handed side. The money won’t be anywhere near what he use to make and Hal said no. Hal said no, but this is Andy Pettitte. This is a different guy all together and it is a starter and it’s someone we know that can work in New York. In Andy’s case he’s stretched and he was willing to do it because it’s a unique circumstance and it’s one of those opportunities that you can’t pass up and right now it’s not going to cost us anything because it’s a minor league deal. “
So are you looking at May 1st as to when Andy Pettitte would return to the pitching rotation?
“Yeah at the earliest, but is is hard to say. He said he has been working out since January throwing. He said he has been running and all that stuff, but he hasn’t been doing our spring training type of regiments, so I think he feels he is farther along then I would think. I think in my mind he is a little farther than we think away. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but the only thing we care about is getting it right, so we’ll get a better sense of where he is at if we have our hands wrapped around him for 10 days. He’s due to come in here by Tuesday of next week and once we get into a 10-day stint with him we’ll get a real feel of where he is at physically.”