Team USA will have two Yankees representatives in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Mark Teixeira and Andy Pettitte. All front office executives and managers hold their breath when their stars participate in this tournament, and the Yankees are no exception, especially when a 40 year old starter is sure to be an important piece to the United States’ run.
one two WBCs have been played, so it’s impossible to decipher if pitching in the tournament increases the probability of injury during the regular season. It’s simply too small of a sample size. We won’t know for a few decades in all likelihood. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried about someone getting hurt; freak injuries happen.
Pettitte hasn’t made more than 21 starts since 2009, when he started 32. Yes, he had a bad luck injury last year with the line drive off his leg, but he also did not pitch in 2011 (by choice), missed 57 games in 2010 with a groin injury, and battled shoulder fatigue in September 2009.
Given the importance of Pettitte to the rotation, his age, and lack of workload in recent years, why are they allowing his participation? The rules indicate Pettitte cannot be placed on a Final Roster without consent:
No player under reserve to a Major League Club shall be permitted to be placed on a FinalRoster if such player has a “Chronic Condition,” as defined by WBCI as follows, unless WBCI consents to such placement.
With respect to a 40-man roster player, a “chronic condition” means any injury, disease or condition which caused him to:
- be on the Disabled List for an aggregate of sixty (60) days or more during the 2012 Major League Championship Season, at least fifteen days of which were in the final sixty (60) days of the 2012 Major League Championship Season;
- be injured and unable to play in two of his Club’s final three games of the 2012 Regular Season or, if his Club qualifies for the 2012 Postseason, be unable to play in two of the Club’s final three games of the Club’s final 2012 Postseason series;
- undergo surgery during the 2012 Major League Season or following the 2012 Regular Season or Postseason and/or receive a recommendation from a licensed physician that surgery should be performed during or following the 2012 Regular Season or Postseason; and/or
- be on the Disabled List on the last day of August during the 2012 Championship Season.
Pettitte missed 72 games while on the disabled list from June 28th until September 19th, so he clearly can be pulled out of participation based on conditions 1 and 4. For a second, I thought that he actually had to fit all four conditions, but this would be impossible because of condition 1. A player could theoretically spend the last 15 days of his 60-day DL stint from September 6th until September 20th, and then pitch in the postseason, which essentially was Pettitte’s case.
There’s always reason to worry about pitcher health, regardless of age. Brian Cashman has done a good job in recent years by carrying 6th and 7th starters to hedge against injury, most notably Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. This year, the loser of the Ivan Nova/David Phelps fifth starter battle will be that extra man, but I expect to see Cashman go out on the scrap heap to find one extra veteran arm, especially with Pettitte now in the WBC.
Frankly, I am surprised the Yankees are allowing Pettitte’s involvement. It appears that the Yankees must have given Team USA its consent, which seems odd. Do they feel like they owe it to Pettitte for all of his service as a Yankee? That seems like a poor reason, considering he’ll have earned about $100M from the Yanks at the end of this season.
Pulling Pettitte from Team USA wouldn’t be unpatriotic; it would be in the best interest of Andy’s health and the team’s well being. I’m sure the United States could have found a pitcher of similar caliber to Pettitte willing to participate and without any injury restrictions. Why the Yankees aren’t doing anything about this is a mystery to me.
Photo By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Andy Pettitte”) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons