Yankees manager Joe Girardi revealed Tuesday that starter Andy Pettitte was pushed back to Game 3 of the American League Championship Series because the lefty was dealing with back and leg issues.
Pettitte’s back locked up during his American League Division Series start against Minnesota on Oct. 7, and the following day, his abductor muscle in his leg acted up during his bullpen session on Oct. 9.
“In talking to doctors and trainers, our staff, (Brian Cashman), we thought we had to give him those two extra days,” Girardi said. “Andy had some leg problems. Down the stretch, he had some back issues, and it was unfortunate and he pitched a great game. Who knows what would’ve happened if he had been able to pitch Game 2. We just felt that after having that issue on Saturday, we better give him an extra couple of days.”
During the seventh inning of Game 2 of the ALDS, Pettitte’s backed started locking up and his hamstrings became very tight, according to Girardi. While Pettitte wanted to return to the game, Girardi did not let the veteran continue. Pettitte picked up his 19th career postseason victory in the Yankees 4-2 win.
When Pettitte came to Yankee Stadium the following day, his back was locked up, and about halfway during bullpen session Saturday, he had to walk off because of his abductor muscle. Girardi and Yankees staff decided that by moving Pettitte back to Game 3 and giving him two extra days of rest, he might be able to “get through that series.”
Pettitte pitched seven innings of two-run ball in Game 3, but came away with the loss as Texas starter Cliff Lee shut down the Yankees in an 8-0 win. It was his lone start in the ALCS.
“He seemed to be Ok through that start. Talked about a little back stiffness but nothing like he had in Minnesota,” Girardi said. “But every time he went after a ball, I was concerned. If you share that knowledge, maybe they bunt more, maybe they try to do more things and that was a concern.”
With Pettitte pushed back to Game 3, and slated for a Game 7, that moved Phil Hughes up to Games 2 and 6, and he struggled in both contests. He gave up seven runs in four innings in Game 2 as Texas evened the series 1-1, and gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 6 as the Rangers clinched the American League pennant.
Hughes went 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA in the two games.
“Sometimes as a manager you have to do things for certain reasons and as I said before, there were a lot of factors that went into lining up our rotation,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you’re going to take heat about it or people are going to question things hat you do about it because you’re trying to protect the player, protect the strategy in the game.”
After the Game 6 loss, Pettitte was non-committal about his future with the Yankees. The 38 year old could call it quits after 16 seasons in the majors or return to chase a sixth World Series championship. Girardi believes that Pettitte will heal fine during the offseason, and would like to see the lefty back in pinstripes.
“Andy has to make a decision,” Girardi said, “but Andy’s a Yankee and let’s hope he decides that he wants to play.”