ORLANDO, Fla. - Andy Pettitte has become the next offseason focus for the New York Yankees, now that Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada have decided to return to the Bronx.
Pettitte declined his $16 million option, saying he needed more time to decide whether he wanted to retire or return for a 14th major league season.
“I talked to Andy once. I will talk to him after Thanksgiving,” new manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday. “I think it’s very important that he comes back because I think he knows the Yankee way, and I think that he was a big plus in the clubhouse as well as on the field.”
In his return to the Yankees following three seasons with his hometown Houston Astros, Pettitte was 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA. The 35-year-old left-hander went 11-3 after the All-Star break and was New York’s most effective starter during the first-round playoff loss to Cleveland.
“I don’t have a sense on which way he might be leaning because I think it’s too early to tell,” Girardi said. “I think Andy needs to decide what he feels is best for his family, and none of us can make that decision for him.”
Without Pettitte, the Yankees’ projected starting rotation includes Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, 21-year-old Phil Hughes, 22-year-old Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, who turns 23 next month. That’s quite a change for a team used to starting pitchers nearing Social Security checks.
“Knowing them like I know them, they’re hungry, they’re determined,” new pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “They like the bright lights being on them.”
Eiland’s promotion was finalized Tuesday along with that of Rob Thomson, who becomes bench coach. Bobby Meacham (third base) and Mike Harkey (bullpen) join holdovers Tony Pena (first base) and Kevin Long (hitting).
Having been pitching coach at Triple-A Scranton last season, Eiland is well acquainted with the young pitchers.
“They’re still some growing pains they’re going to have to go through,” he said.
If the Yankees acquire two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana from Minnesota, they likely would send one or two of their top prospects to the Twins.
“I feel these three guys are going to be mainstays on that Yankee staff for many years to come,” Eiland said. “Obviously you don’t rule anything out as far as what you may need to do to put your club in position to win a world championship. Maybe ultimately it comes down to having to trade one or two of those guys. Who knows? From a personal standpoint, I hope not.”
Preparing for his first season after succeeding Joe Torre, Girardi knows there is plenty of time to make more roster moves before spring training.
“I think there’s some concern about the depth of the starting rotation. It’s always good to have healthy competition for those five spots, to make sure that you’re covered,” he said. “And number two, I think there’s still some work to do possibly in the bullpen.”
Chamberlain was a sensation in the final two months of the season as Rivera’s setup man, relying on his fastball and slider as he allowed just one earned run in 19 appearances.
But the Yankees repeatedly said the bullpen was just a temporary stop.
“Obviously in a perfect world we’d like to have him in the rotation but like I said earlier, nothing is really etched in stone yet,” Eiland said. “He’s a four-pitch guy and right now three of those four pitches are above average major league pitches, being his fastball and his slider and his curveball.”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
As for the older guys, Girardi isn’t worried about Mussina, who was dropped from the rotation in early September following three horrible starts, then regained his job because of injuries and pitched well.
Eiland thinks Mussina, who turns 39 next month, must use his fastball more aggressively on the inside of the plate.
“When you’re an older player, everyone wants to think that you’re done,” Girardi said. “I think Mike Mussina has a lot to offer.”
Notes: RHP Scott Patterson agreed to a one-year contract. New York added C Francisco Cervelli, Marquez and White to the 40-man roster, protecting them from next month’s winter-meeting draft.
HBT: Controversial umpire Angel Hernandez blew another call that nearly cost the White Sox a win on Friday, earning the ire of manager Robin Ventura.
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