In the wake of Michael Pineda's season-ending diagnosis, Andy Pettitte's steady climb back to the majors just became essential business for the Yankees. Pettitte takes the next step tonight, when he makes his first start for Double-A Trenton.
In two previous starts for High-A Tampa, Pettitte dominated: 7.0 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 5 K, 0 BB. Even against lesser competition, that's encouraging.
Tonight, he'll be stretched out to a pitch count of 80 to 85. Originally, Pettitte had been on target for a mid-May return, but if he dominates against more advanced hitters tonight then will the Yankees up his timetable? Given the struggles of the Yankee rotation in general and Freddy Garcia in particular, it's bound to be tempting.
The good news for the Yankees is that their powerhouse offense and top-shelf bullpen mean the situation isn't as urgent as it might otherwise appear. Still, on another level a rotation that includes Garcia and the inconsistent-as-a-starter Phil Hughes is a rotation that can't get help soon enough. Perhaps after tonight, we'll know how soon they can expect it in the form of a 39-year-old former retiree.