Yankees pitcher Pettitte is picture of perseverance

Left-hander closed strong after two months on DL

Yankees-Angels notebook

October 02, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Left-hander Andy Pettitte began his season with six scoreless innings in the New York Yankees' home opener. He closed it by winning five straight decisions and 10 of his last 11.

It's what happened in between that makes his finish, and tonight's assignment against the Anaheim Angels in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, so improbable.

Pettitte missed two months after going on the disabled list, retroactive to April 16, with left elbow tendinitis, and was scratched from an Aug. 31 start with lower-back stiffness. He hasn't been the picture of health, just a very effective pitcher.

Pettitte went 13-5 with a 3.27 ERA and a team-leading three complete games in 22 starts.

"For two, three starts when I first came back, I was kind of in slow motion. I realized my arm strength wasn't there and my mental strength wasn't there," he said. "It wasn't until three or four starts after that I started feeling like my velocity on my fastball started coming back and my curveball."

Pettitte's 10 postseason wins are tied with Greg Maddux, Dave Stewart and Whitey Ford for third most in baseball history - an accomplishment he dismisses as casually as the batters he faces.

"I've been able to give them some good starts," he said, "but I've been able to give them some bad starts, too."

Angels' Cook sits

The postseason resume belonging to Dennis Cook wasn't enough to keep him on the Angels' roster. Perhaps he was overqualified for a bullpen job.

Cook hasn't allowed a run in 19 career playoff games spanning 16 1/3 innings. Only Joe Niekro (20) has a longer such streak. Cook has appeared in two World Series, with the champion Florida Marlins in 1997 and the New York Mets in 2000.

So why is this man inactive in the Division Series?

Manager Mike Scioscia chose to keep only one left-hander in his bullpen, Scott Schoeneweis, and take his chances in the late innings against left-handed hitters Jason Giambi and Robin Ventura. He kept five right-handers, including rookie Francisco Rodriguez, who turned in 5 2/3 scoreless innings this season.

"We had some incredibly tough decisions," Scioscia said, "and Dennis Cook was one of them."

The strategy was tested in Game 1 last night, as Schoeneweis was brought in to face Giambi with two on in the eighth inning and the Angels nursing a 5-4 lead. Giambi singled off first baseman Scott Spiezio's glove to tie the game.

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