The official Team USA roster will be announced tomorrow, however we already know that Andy Pettitte will be participating in this year’s World Baseball Classic, according to WFAN’s Jon Heyman.
Pettitte, 40, admittedly said he didn’t have his legs fully underneath him for much of the season. His decision to pitch in the WBC can be viewed as both a risk and reward for him and the Yanks.
First the risk. WBC or not, Pettitte’s age alone is enough to ask questions about workload and whether or not he can handle the rigors and grind of a 162 game season. Pitching extra stressful innings could compound the problem, especially as the “dog-days” of summer descend on the Bronx. He will turn 41 in June, and hasn’t had an injury-free season since 2009; Pettitte has had a history of elbow, groin and back problems throughout his career.
The Yankees success throughout the regular season and playoffs if they reach, will be heavily attributed to Pettitte’s performance. They want him as fresh as can be for as long as possible, so pitching in the WBC could take a toll on the soon-to-be 41 year old’s body.
When he returned in May, he was clearly refreshed as he pitched to an ERA of 2.87 this past season, with a k/9 innings ratio of 8.2, his highest since 2004. However, Pettitte was largely unhappy with his command and endurance throughout the season, and blamed it on the fact that he had such a long layoff from retirement and his broken leg. This is why the WBC could be a reward.
If Pettitte truly feels his elbow is fine, which has been his major concern throughout his career, then why not pitch in the WBC? The more Pettitte gets his legs underneath him in real, stressful game situations, the better off he might be as he prepares for his first full season since 2010. In my opinion, the more work he gets in stressful innings again, the better prepared he will be. The WBC will be the closest thing to the regular season, which is maybe what Pettitte wants to feel more of again.
Each pitcher has a certain amount of bullets for his career. When Pettitte left the game after 2010, he made sure he had exhausted the desire to play. Obviously, he still had something left in the tank. Maybe playing in the WBC is a chance for Pettitte to fully leave everything out on the field since this will probably be his last year. Let’s be honest, he isn’t going to be pitching 7-8 innings for Team USA every time out. The Yankees will no doubt manage and have an input on his usage, but if Pettitte is 100 percent healthy then he should be allowed to participate. If the Yankees had any real concern about his longevity this season, Pettitte would NOT be on the roster.
Regardless, Pettitte will be a vital cog in the Yankees rotation throughout the regular season and the playoffs, should they make it that far.