Pettitte assumes familiar Game 2 role
Back with Yanks, southpaw needs no tutorial for pivotal start
CLEVELAND -- It's hardly an unfamiliar situation for Andy Pettitte. When he first joined the Yankees 12 years ago, handing Pettitte the ball for the second game of a playoff series was simply a logical choice.
Now, naming Pettitte the Game 2 starter has essentially evolved into a habit for Yankees manager Joe Torre. Keeping with the trend established over a dozen prior postseason series, Pettitte is slated to take the hill in the second tilt of the American League Division Series against the Indians on Friday.
New York is hoping that Pettitte's extensive playoff resume can pay off, too, considering the Yankees absorbed a 12-3 bruising from the Indians in Game 1. Inside the Yankees clubhouse, the players are quick to point out that Pettitte is exactly the type of pitcher they want on the mound with the series now tilted in Cleveland's favor.
"We've got Andy on the mound, and you just try to forget about this really quick," New York catcher Jorge Posada said after Game 1. "That game was pretty tough, but you just hope Andy does the things that he's known to do."
"He's been through this before," Yankees first baseman Doug Mientkiewic said. "I feel a lot better with him on my side than having to go up against him."
Prior to Thursday's loss, Pettitte could only shrug when asked why Torre kept turning to the left-hander for a Game 2 appearance. Pettitte, who was seriously contemplating retirement before signing with New York for this season, is just happy to be pitching for the Yankees again in October.
"I'm not really sure," Pettitte said with a laugh. "Early in my career, it was kind of an easier choice, because we had some other veteran, established guys and [Torre] always wanted to start off with them. Then, I just think he got comfortable with putting me in that spot.
"It just seemed like I was always the candidate for Game 2. I think now, he's just got to the point this year where, 'Well, Andy always starts Game 2. He might as well pitch Game 2.'"
There's a little more to Torre's thinking than that, though comfort did play an important role in the decision to send Pettitte to the mound in a battle against Cleveland's Fausto Carmona. Torre understands the importance that Game 2 holds in a best-of-five series, and he wants an experienced starter on the mound for such a task.
Pettite has ample postseason experience, considering he has pitched in the playoffs in 10 of his first 12 big league seasons. Over that span, the 35-year-old southpaw has gone 14-9 with a 4.08 ERA across 34 starts in the playoffs, including 11 appearances in seven different World Series. Along the way, Pettitte has gone 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 13 Game 2 outings.
"It's a big game," Torre said. "Any time you can either add on or stop the bleeding, [you should start] somebody that you feel comfortable about. Not that it guarantees you're going to win, but at least you know the guy is going to go out there and do what he can without piling on any more baggage."
While Pettitte has logged considerable October innings over the years for the Yankees, he hasn't started a playoff game for the club since 2003, when he took the loss in Game 6 of the Marlins' World Series victory. In the past three seasons, Pettitte suited up for the Astros, who fell in the Fall Classic to the White Sox in 2005.
In his first season back with the Yankees, Pettitte is hoping he can help lead them to their first World Series title since 2000. This season, with his left elbow issues in the past, Pettitte went 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA out of New York's injury-riddled rotation.
"We're definitely hungry," Pettitte said. "There are a lot of guys in the clubhouse that have never been able to get to a World Series, and I know that's one of the reasons why I came back -- to try to help try to get us to another World Series and win one."
While Pettitte has seen the Indians many times throughout his career, he isn't as familiar with the latest Cleveland offense. The lefty defeated the Tribe at Jacobs Field on Aug. 12, when he yielded just two runs over 7 1/3 innings, but that's the extent of his knowledge about the Indians' current lineup.
"I've been gone for three years out of the American League, so I haven't had a chance to face these guys a lot over the last couple years." Pettitte said. "I know when I faced them earlier, they weren't playing as well as they are now.
"The reports on them now are a lot different. They're a great team -- I know that. They won their division, and that's an extremely tough division. They walked away there pretty good toward the end."
This past winter, Pettitte nearly stepped away from the game. Having the opportunity to win one more ring with the Yankees helped convince him to return to New York for at least one more season.
"We went a while now without winning it, so I would say that guys are starting to get a little bit -- a group of us -- I think are a little bit older now," he said. "We don't know how many times we'll have a chance to do this."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.