The Yankee starters finished their first trip through the rotation with a 9.97 ERA. That was no more likely to hold up than are the bullpen's current 1.07 ERA or the offense's 6.83 runs per game. Indeed, Carl Pavano began the correction of that starters' ERA last night with seven innings of two-run baseball, dropping the figure nearly two runs to 8.16. Expect Andy Pettitte to continue that trend tonight.
Pettitte's first outing was the best of those first five Yankee starts (an admittedly low standard), and only came to an end after four innings because he was on a strict pitch limit necessitated by the back problems that interrupted his spring training schedule. Looking back over the game log, Andy got a double play to end the third and set the Devil Rays down in order in the fourth only to run into his pitch limit. Prior to that, he was undone by three walks, a wild pitch, a passed ball, an error, a stolen base, and three singles, one of which didn't leave the infield. A lot of that is his own fault, and he was similarly rescued by that double play and his own great sliding tag of B.J. Upton at home, but it's significant that he didn't get cuffed around like Mussina (four doubles), Igawa, or Rasner (two homers and a double each). The only extra base hit Pettitte allowed was a two-out Jonny Gomes double in the first, which he stranded by getting Ty Wigginton to fly out on the very next pitch, and that fly out was the only one of the game as Pettitte (as evidenced by the double play, infield single, and error) did an excellent job of keeping the ball on the ground.
So, while Pettitte's first start wasn't good by any stretch, there were a lot of positive indicators. Since then, he tossed a scoreless inning of relief on his throw day and, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, gotten in out of the cold. I like his chances to turn in a solid outing tonight.
In fact, tonight's game has the potential to be something of a pitcher's duel, as the Twins will counter Pettitte with 25-year-old sophomore Boof Bonser. Despite making 18 major league starts last year, Bonser has never faced the Yankees during the regular season. He did, however, face them this spring. In that game, Bonser allowed a pair of solo homers to Bobby Abreu and Josh Phelps, but held the Yankees to just two other hits over six innings while striking out seven. He had a similar outing in his first regular season start against the Orioles last week, striking out six in six innings while allowing just two runs on three hits, one of them a solo homer by Melvin Mora.
The most compelling thing about Bonser, however--other than the fact that he's officially changed his name to Boof (his birth name was John)--is that his mannerisms on the mound make him a dead ringer for a young, right-handed David Wells. A sloppy, heavy-set fellow with a brown goatee, a baggy jersey, and a big overhand delivery, Boof recalls the Boomer of 1997 and 1998, the ace of the 1998 Yankees and author of a perfect game against none other than the Minnesota Twins. Bonser and Wells are opposites when it comes to pitching style, however. In addition to throwing with the opposite hands, Wells pitches to contact, with historically low walk rates and correspondingly high hit rates, while Bonser tends to miss bats both in and out of the strike zone, suppressing hits along the way. Bonser does give up his share of homers, however, and it will be up to the Yankees tonight to make sure they have a few men on base when that inevitable long ball leaves the park.
In other news, the Twins disabled two players yesterday, placing Jeff Cirillo and Rondell White (surprise) on the 15-day DL and recalling infielder Alexi Casilla and outfielder Josh "Broccoli" Rabe from triple-A (see Aaron Gleeman for more). Unfortunately, Rabe's name is pronounced "RAY-bee," so his nickname only works in print.