Commentary

Pettitte decision leaves fans nervous

With the veteran Yankees pitcher calling it quits, fans uncertain of what's next

Updated: February 4, 2011, 12:20 PM ET
By Matthew Ehalt | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Yankees fans had seen this before with Andy Pettitte. The veteran lefty would take his time deciding whether to return to the team and eventually would re-sign with the Bronx Bombers.

They expected the same this season.

But it won't be. According to 1050 ESPN's Michael Kay, Pettitte will announce his retirement Friday after a fantastic career that netted him 240 wins, leaving the Yankees with either unproven or past-their-prime pitchers to round out the final two spots in the rotation.

And that had fans in the streets of New York City nervous.

"They need him back," said Joe Caiazzo, who works in advertising. "I'm not surprised, but a little bit concerned about heading into the season with just CC [Sabathia], [Phil] Hughes and AJ [Burnett]. Who knows what AJ's going to give us, but it's a little surprising. It kind of makes sense since they have been stockpiling those old veterans, [Freddy] Garcia and [Bartolo] Colon."

As it stands, the Yankees' rotation could feature unproven rookie Ivan Nova, the inconsistent Sergio Mitre and veterans Garcia, Colon and Mark Prior. While those veterans have had great success in the past, their best years are in the past.

Fans admit that they are used to the team's featuring a proven rotation and could be in for a surprise at the beginning of the season.

"The rotation is in flux," said Alex Ross, an attorney. "Pettitte leaving definitely leaves a hole in the rotation since they really haven't picked up anything else."

While the caution is there, fans did hold out some hope that the back-end pitchers could do well. One individual said it's time to give the young guys on the farm a chance and is hopeful they can prove themselves like Hughes and Joba Chamberlain did in the past.

"I'm not saying it's a make or break just because he left, especially if you look at a lot of teams," said Adrian Pohila, a sales coordinator. "Their fourth and fifth starters are not that great anyway."

Pettitte's retirement also made the Yankees' failure to sign Cliff Lee loom large. Had Pettitte returned, it could've helped ease the sting of missing out on the best free-agent left-handed pitcher on the market. Now, the Yankees don't have Lee and also lost an important lefty in the rotation, leaving Sabathia as the lone left-handed pitcher in a division that features the tough and lefty-heavy Boston Red Sox.

"I think the Phillies overpaid for Lee," Caiazzo said. "But it does hurt now that Pettitte is out of the picture."

While Yankees fans weren't visibly heartbroken about Pettitte's decision to call it a career, they mostly had nothing but great things to say about the veteran. They lauded him for being a consistent pitcher who would go out and win double-digit games each season and be one of the stalwarts of the Yankees' pitching staff.

"He's a true Yankee," said Edward Fiammetta, who is retired. "It's a shame."

Matthew Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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