As one veteran has faltered of late, the New York Yankees are hoping another can deliver in his return.
Andy Pettitte makes his first start in nearly three months Tuesday night when the Yankees open a three-game series versus foundering Ricky Romero and the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
Owning a 10-game lead atop the AL East at one point, it could have been argued the Yankees (83-63) might not have missed the 40-year-old left-hander that much after he suffered a fractured ankle on a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman on June 27.
But with CC Sabathia losing three of his last four starts as New York clings to a one-half game division lead, Pettitte (3-3, 3.22 ERA) will be thrown right into the mix after throwing 55 pitches in a simulated game last Tuesday.
Manager Joe Girardi likely will limit Pettitte to 70 pitches, with David Phelps likely serving as a potential long reliever if necessary.
"I'm going to go out there, hope I can get in a good rhythm, have my command and I'll throw the ball well," Pettitte told the team's official website Monday. "If I don't, if I'm walking guys and my command isn't good, I'm going to get hit, I'm going to get knocked around. That's just the way it is.
"Even though I've been out a couple months, I know what to expect, and the Blue Jays are going to be ready for it. I'm looking forward to it being a battle, and I feel like I'm ready for that physically and mentally."
Pettitte did not face the Blue Jays this year before getting hurt. He is 21-12 versus Toronto - his second-most victories against any team - but is only 6-7 in 19 home starts.
The Yankees seem to have found some solid footing of late, taking two of three from both Boston and Tampa Bay, capped by a 6-4 victory over the Rays on Sunday when Russell Martin's three-run homer highlighted a five-run third.
Derek Jeter likely will again serve as the designated hitter as he deals with an ankle injury. Eduardo Nunez is 4 for 13 with a homer and double in the last four games playing shortstop.
While the Yankees are counting on Pettitte, the only thing the Blue Jays (66-79) could count on with Romero (8-14, 5.87) over the past two-plus months has been losses.
Many, many losses.
The left-hander is 0-13 with a 7.91 ERA in 14 starts since beating Miami on June 22, and his losing streak has tied a club record established by Tom Underwood from Aug. 28, 1978-June 10, 1979. New York has made a significant contribution to Romero's stretch of misery, giving him three of those defeats by reaching him for 11 runs in 20 innings.
Romero's woes continued versus Seattle on Wednesday, when he allowed three runs and eight hits with four walks and was pulled after four-plus innings in a 3-2 defeat. Despite the ongoing futility, manager John Farrell refuses to give up on the pitcher who won 42 games his first three years in the majors.
"We're not abandoning Ricky Romero," Farrell said. "We're going to continue to work with him, we're going to continue to finish this year on a positive note and that is our intent going forward."
Romero is trying to avoid becoming the first pitcher to lose 14 consecutive decisions as a starter in a single season since Mike Parrott did so with the Mariners in 1980, accomplishing that dubious feat in 15 starts spanning April 15-Sept. 13, 1980.
Curtis Granderson, whose next home run will make him the first Yankee outfielder to have back-to-back 40-homer seasons since Mickey Mantle in 1960-61, is 4 for 21 with one home run and eight strikeouts versus Romero. Jayson Nix, though, is 7 for 12 with a double.
The Blue Jays will be without shortstop Yunel Escobar after the team suspended him for three games Tuesday for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic slur written in Spanish during Saturday's game against Boston.
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