This has been a long road swing for the PawSox. 10 games, 4 cities with a last minute shift from Batavia to Rochester. That move was necessitated by the presence of veteran lefty, Andy Pettitte. The future Hall of Famer is very close to completing his comeback with the Yankees. Ironically, it comes the same week that his teammate and friend, Mariano Rivera went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Along with Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, those men combined to form the “Core Four”. The Core Four was the heart and soul of the Yankees, and as any good Red Sox fan can tell you, they made life miserable for us.
Sunday at Frontier Field, I was interviewing PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler for our pre-game show when a large black SUV pulled right on to the playing field in Rochester and stopped at the backstop behind home plate. The door opened and out stepped Pettitte. The height, the unmistakable profile and the menacing eyes that sent chills through the hearts of hitters for the last generation. Pettitte quickly made his way inside to safety while dozens of autograph seekers, who had been waiting for hours outside the park, continued their vigil, not realizing they had missed their quarry.
Beyeler, who could be called a stoic, admitted he was looking forward to the days matchup. “With Pettitte pitching, they’ve got a lot of tickets sold. Should be a big crowd. A little day baseball, get on the bus and go home. It’s about time.” Beyeler spoke about the oddity of his club playing 4 days in 4 different cities, Toledo, Batavia, Rochester and Monday in Pawtucket. “It’s not the norm. It reminds me of being in Venezuela in the winter time. You go to a different town every day to play. You don’t think much of it.”
Arnie commented on the “shoe being on the other foot”. Usually it is the Red Sox making a splash with a Major League rehabber like Dustin Pedroia or David Ortiz. This time it’s the Yankees. “I think this is great. Guys like him who have the ability he’s got. Possible Hall of Fame career, a great competitor. I think it will be fun to see him. A quality pitcher like him. I’m sure his stuff is still good. The place will be buzzing and going crazy today. It should be a lot of fun.”
The irony of Pettittes’ comeback coinciding with the injury to Mariano Rivera was not lost on Beyeler. “Any time you’ve got a superstar guy like that and he goes down, it’s not good for the game. Hopefully, Mariano will rehab, get back and get back to form. it will be better for him if he can finish on his own terms. The respect among players at what he does as possibly the best relief pitcher ever. Hopefully he comes back and we get to see him pitch some more.”
PawSox catcher Mike Rivera caught Pettitte while they were both Yankees players. He has some advice for his current teammates, but not much. “Watch for the cutter, cutter, cutter. You may know it’s coming, but that doesn’t mean you can do anything with it.” Pitching coach Rich Sauveur says the cutter is a variation of the slider, held just a bit differently, with a slighter break. “Pettittes’ cutter is so good, because it has ‘depth’ to it.””