The instances of a pitcher coming back to perform well after a self-enforced (not injury-related) one-year absence are few and far between, but the Yankees seem to believe that Andy Pettitte will pick up in 2012 where he left off in the middle of 2010, at or near the top of his came.
"Yeah, why not?,'' Derek Jeter shrugged when asked if he thought Pettitte could still pitch the way he was pitching in July 2010, when he was 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA before going down with a groin pull that sidelined him for two months.
Mariano Rivera, while more reserved than Jeter, also expressed confidence that Pettitte could return to be an effective pitcher for the Yankees.
"It’s not easy, pitching is not easy,'' Mo said. "When you take a year off, plus, and you're expecting you’re going to be ready as you used to, it ain't gonna happen like that. But you know Andy will do the right thing before he goes north to help the team. It's all about being a fighter and being a player that don’t give up, and that’s what Andy is.''
I asked Joe Girardi if he could think of any examples of pitchers who had retired, sat out a year, and then came back to pitch the way they had before.
"There’s no one that really comes to mind for me,'' Girardi said. "But it's like I told people about Derek when he was struggling, I wouldn’t bet against him. I wouldn’t bet against Andy Pettitte. Our expectation is he's going to be the pitcher he was before. That's why we signed him.''
I actually came up with one pitcher who attempted to do what Pettitte is trying to do, with less than spectacular results: David Cone, who in 2003 attempted a comeback with the Mets at age 40 after sitting out the 2002 season. Coney gave it up a little more than a month into the season, after four starts, 18 innings, a 1-3 record and 6.50 ERA.