In his bid to return to Major League Baseball after spending a year in semi-retirement, Yankee legend Andy Pettitte has taken yet-another step toward realizing that goal.
The veteran left-hander, with 13 seasons as a Yankee on his resume and three more as an Astro, is still working his body into game shape in the low minors.
Due to his late signing date, Pettitte won't likely be ready for the big leagues until sometime in May, but his progress has been consistent and the results will surely encourage Yankee fans and management as they seek to shore up the rotation in the Bronx.
During his latest outing, Pettitte got his work in and made a successful start for the Class A Advanced Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League.
He tossed four shutout innings against the Clearwater Threshers, holding the Philadelphia Phillies-affiliated minor leaguers to only two hits and no walks over the outing. Pettitte struck out three along the way.
Pettitte didn't allow a hit until he allowed two consecutive singles with one out in the top of the fourth. After the singles, he induced a double-play come-backer to the mound to end the minor threat.
Perhaps most encouraging was the fact that Pettitte recorded all of his outs via strikeout or groundout, aside from one popout to second.
While the Florida State League is clearly a long way from Major League Baseball, Pettitte's focus for now is building physical stamina and arm strength. He will soon take a step or two up the minor league ladder as he nears big league readiness.
With Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia representing question marks for Joe Girardi in New York, Pettitte's progress is undoubtedly a welcomed development. The ability to pencil someone Pettitte's stature and experience into the starting staff will offer some peace of mind if the other arms remain less-than-convincing.
New York brass hasn't yet announced where Pettitte will make his next start, but it could be in Tampa again as he continues to up his pitch counts.
Following Phil Hughes' disaster of a start on Saturday against the Angels, the arrival of reinforcements may potentially inspire the young right-hander to up his game in order to defend his position in the rotation.
We can only hope.
All game information from MiLB.com