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Pettitte's health the key to the Yankees repeating


By Andy Roth
Contributing Editor


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    Where Politically Correct Opinions Get Rejected

    New York, NY (Sports Network) - If the New York Yankees hope to win a second straight world championship they'll need a healthy and productive Andy Pettitte on the mound come October. Before the 38-year old lefty went down with a strained groin July 18, he was clearly the defending champs' second-best starter with an 11-2 record and 2.88 ERA.

    The Yankees got some encouraging news regarding Pettitte on Sunday. He threw a 35-pitch bullpen session prior to New York's game with the White Sox, and said it's the best he's felt on the mound since the injury.

    "I feel good," Pettitte said. "My arm bounced back big-time today. If I was going to grade it (on a 1 to 10 scale), I'd say my arm felt like a 9 today."

    With A.J. Burnett (9-12, 5.17 ERA) and Javier Vazquez (9-9, 4.96 ERA) fading into oblivion, Pettitte's importance to the Yankees repeating as world champs has become that much greater. His presence alone in the rotation is vital, and the fact that's he's left-handed is doubly valuable against some the Yankee's potential opponents in the American League playoffs.

    The Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton, one of the leading candidates for the American League MVP award, has actually been a very ordinary hitter against left-handed pitching this season. He leads the AL with a .359 batting average and is second in slugging percentage at .639, but is hitting only .258 with a .429 SLG versus lefties.

    Two of the biggest hitters in the Minnesota Twins lineup have also put up bad numbers against southpaws this season. Joe Mauer is hitting .244, while Jason Kubel, second on the team in RBI with 81, is batting just .210. Kubel, as a matter of fact, usually has a seat on the bench when the Twins face Pettitte.

    The Tampa Bay Rays' second-best hitter, Carl Crawford, is much less effective against lefties too, putting up a .241 BA and .373 SLG, compared to his overall numbers of a .294 BA and .468 SLG. Carlos Pena, the club's home run leader and number two RBI man is hitting just .210 versus left handers since joining the team in 2007. And when a southpaw is on the mound, Matt Joyce is usually out of the lineup. The left-handed hitting Joyce has given the Rays a really nice offensive boost since being called up from the minors on June 25, with 31 RBI in 52 games. But he would likely sit against a tough lefthander like Pettitte, since he rarely plays against lefties now with just 16 AB this season.

    QUICK HITS

    As much as I've written about the San Diego Padres' young pitching star Mat Latos, I feel like I should nominate myself as president of his fan club. Latos continued his amazing run last Friday, going toe-to-toe with the Phillies' Roy Oswalt. Latos finished with a no-decision, giving up just one run and five hits in seven innings. That marked the 19th time in his last 20 starts he's allowed a remarkable two earned runs or fewer. Since May 1, you can make a very strong case he's been the best pitcher in baseball. The numbers speak for themselves: 12 wins, 2 losses, 1.63 ERA. I think Latos has to be in the discussion at this point for the NL Cy Young award.

    The Arizona Diamondbacks look like they got themselves a good, young pitcher in Daniel Hudson, whom they acquired from the White Sox in late July for Edwin Jackson. He's been very impressive in his first six starts since the trade, going 4-1 with a 1.85 ERA. He also has an eye-opening 42 strikeouts and mere eight walks in 43 2/3 innings. According to teammate Adam LaRoche, Hudson has also caught the eye of National League hitters. The Arizona first baseman has heard plenty of praise for the 23-year old righty on the rare occasion an opposing batter reaches base. "They talk about how nasty he is," LaRoche told the Diamondback's official website, "and how uncomfortable the at-bat is."

    Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.


    Copyright 2010


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