By HOWIE RUMBERG, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Andy Pettitte will be back on the mound in the Bronx on Sunday, and the New York Yankees are hoping he can again be a reliable presence in their rotation.
Pettitte is set to start against the Seattle Mariners in his first major league outing since retiring after the 2010 postseason.
"I think it will be a great day at the Stadium," manager Joe Girardi said.
The lefty, who turns 40 next month, returned to the team in spring training and has made four minor league starts. Even though Pettitte was shaky over five innings in a Triple-A start Sunday, general manager Brian Cashman says the time is right.
"I think everybody's in agreement that he's not going to really benefit from any more time down there," Cashman said.
One thing the Yankees management does agree on is the rotation needs help. Expected to be a strong part of the team after the addition of Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda in the offseason, the Yankees' rotation has struggled this to a 5.54 ERA and a .292 opponents' batting average — only Minnesota and Colorado have worse averages against.
Pineda is out for season following shoulder surgery and Freddy Garcia was demoted to the bullpen. Rookie David Phelps is scheduled to make his second start against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, then is a likely candidate to return to the bullpen. But Girardi would not say whose spot Pettitte will take.
Pettitte is 240-138 in 13 years with the Yankees and three with Houston. He was a steady force in the Yankees' rotation for five World Series championships and is a fan favorite as one of the Core Four with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.
Cashman, though, is trying to be realistic in his expectations for Pettitte, who will be making his first big league start in 573 days, since Game 3 of the AL championship series against Texas on Oct. 18, 2010.
"There's still the unknown," Cashman said. "There's a gap between what the old Andy Pettitte is and what we're going to get? I just don't know yet. But we're looking forward to adding another healthy arm to the mix here because depth has been challenged and some of our healthy starters inconsistent. It would be nice to obviously start pulling together a string of consistently strong starts by all of our starters one through five and, hopefully, that could include Andy."
Pettitte already has completed his testimony at Roger Clemens' trial in Washington, D.C. so that shouldn't weigh in his mind. He will be facing one of only two AL teams he doesn't have a winning record against: He's 11-11 against Seattle and 8-8 versus Cleveland.
His locker — the same one he occupied in his last season with the Yankees — is filling with gear that includes 10 pairs of footwear and a full mail basket. Pettitte will be working out in Westchester, where he has a New York home, until he is added to the big league roster Sunday.
Tampa Bay rays manager Joe Maddon thinks Pettitte will have an immediate positive influence on the team regardless of his performance in his first few starts.
"You can't underestimate what he's going to do for the clubhouse being minus the other guy," Maddon said, referring to closer Mariano Rivera, who is likely out for the season with a torn knee ligament.
Cashman said there had been a complication with Rivera's medical exams Monday in New York but wouldn't say what it was. Rivera saw team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad at New York Presbyterian Hospital and by Dr. Russell Warren, a knee specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Rivera's agent, Fernando Cuza, said Dr. David Altchek, who performed surgery on the pitcher's shoulder following the 2008 season, also looked at him.
"It's something I think Mo will talk to you guys about," Cashman said. "It doesn't affect anything for next year."
He did say that the injury sustained while shagging fly balls last week in Kanasas City is fixable.
"It's all about next year," Cashman said.
NOTES: RHP Jose Campos, obtained from Seattle along with Pineda, went on the disabled list of Charleston, S.C., with elbow inflammation. Pineda is sidelined for the season following shoulder surgery. The Yankees sent C Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi to the Mariners in the trade. ... Brett Gardner played in left field for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes/Barre in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday night as part of his rehabilitation for a strained right elbow. He singled twice in three at-bats.
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