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Looking back on Andy Pettitte's 1st start of 2012

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Looking back on Andy Pettitte's 1st start of 2012

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Andy Pettitte stood on the mound at Yankee Stadium with his hat pulled down low, peering in at the catcher over the glove held high in front of his face. It's an image Yankees fans know well. This time, though, No. 46 was back on a big league mound for the first time in a year and a half. It was hard to tell. Pettitte pitched effectively into the seventh inning Sunday, but gave up a pair of two-run homers in New York's 6-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners. "To me, he looked like he hadn't missed a beat," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. Nearly lost amid the excitement over Pettitte's first major league appearance since retiring after the 2010 season was party crasher Kevin Millwood's performance for Seattle -- helped by three double plays. The 37-year-old Millwood (1-4) gave up three hits in seven innings and got his 2,000th career strikeout as Seattle avoided a three-game sweep. The Yankees tried to prevent their old pal Pettitte from taking the loss with a rally in the eighth against four Seattle relievers. Robinson Cano was walked with two outs by Charlie Furbush with the bases loaded to make it 4-2. Mark Teixeira, though, struck out to end the inning. The lovefest for Pettitte (0-1) began when the lefty appeared with several players in videos welcoming fans to Yankee Stadium after batting practice. The cheers grew as he strolled out to the bullpen for warm-ups and fans rose for a standing ovation when the five-time World Series champion followed his teammates onto the field for the first inning. "I just cannot believe how comfortable this is for me," Pettitte said. "I don't know how to explain it." The Core Four member who turns 40 next month even got special treatment from the Bleacher Creatures. They broke protocol after their roll call and started a chant for Pettitte that most of the 41,631 in attendance joined. The Creatures rarely include the starting pitcher when calling out player's names in the first inning. The stadium got awful quiet when Casper Wells homered in the sixth to give Seattle a 4-1 lead with his first of the season, an opposite-field drive off the netting on the right-field pole. Justin Smoak homered for Seattle's first hit with two outs in the fourth. "I thought it was so awesome. I was so excited. I know we lost today and that's what a lot of people are going to focus on -- I could really care less about that," Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said. "We got our boy back." Pettitte's return had become more important to the Yankees because their rotation had been struggling, with Freddy Garcia demoted to the bullpen. But through the first five games of this homestand, the team's starters were 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA and Girardi thought their performance would take some of the pressure off Pettitte. The broad-chested Texan appeared calm as ever in his first big league start in 573 days, since Game 3 of the AL championship series against Texas on Oct. 18, 2010. He sat out last season before deciding in mid-March to make a comeback. After Swisher caught leadoff batter Dustin Ackley's fly to right with a leap at the wall, Pettitte walked Wells. He then got Ichiro Suzuki to ground into a double play. Pettitte walked Alex Liddi with two outs in the second but Mike Carp grounded out to end the inning. Not having allowed a hit two outs into the fourth, Pettitte walked former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero and Smoak lined a homer to left. Pettitte showed characteristically little emotion on the mound. Wells homered following Ackley's leadoff single in the sixth. The Mariners then loaded the bases with one out on three straight singles but Girardi stuck with Pettitte, and Carp grounded to first. Teixeira stepped on the base and threw home, and catcher Russell Martin tagged a sliding Montero. Pettitte returned for one batter in the seventh and induced his 12th groundball out. He left to a loud ovation despite trailing 4-1 and waved to fans as he entered the dugout. "There is not a question in my mind how this is all going to play out for me," Pettitte said. "It's not about this one start. I'll measure if this was a successful return or not at the end of October."

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

After his team showed resilience in erasing a 24-point lead to beat the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday night, head coach Scott Brooks swept aside an opportunity to fire back at critics of himself and his team following a barrage of negative headlines in recent days.

Brooks did, however, take the time to address one particular angle of the whole mess. He issued a passionate defense of his star point guard, John Wall, who has been at the center of the controversies surrounding the organization.

Brooks and Wall had an altercation last week during practice that led to Wall receiving a fine from the team. Brooks spoke at length about the incident itself at shootaround. After Tuesday's win, he honed in on a specific criticism of Wall, that he is out of shape and not giving an honest effort on the floor.

"John, he's been taking hits. Let's face it," Brooks said. "You hear all the reports that he's heavy. The guy has seven percent body fat..."

"He's in great shape. I like the way he plays. He plays hard."

Brooks went on to point out how Wall hasn't been playing at 100 percent for much of this season. Wall has dealt with a deep thigh bruise and it's partly to explain for the Wizards' 6-11 start.

The overall numbers look about how they should for Wall.

He's averaging 21.5 points, 7.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. But his defense has been lacking and he's not getting the assists he usually collects because he hasn't had the same burst in transition.

Playing through injuries is always tricky for professional athletes. When people know they're hurt, that effort is often appreciated. But when the injuries aren't disclosed, fans and members of the media can only draw conclusions based on what they see.

Brooks explained in detail why he thinks Wall should be cut some slack for his start to the season.

"He's a warrior. There's a lot of guys that I've seen in my playing career that they love to sit out. They're just talented and they've got talented contracts. They sit out and you can't do anything about it. You admire and you appreciate and you celebrate the guys that play hard. You don't have to tell the world that he's banged up," Brooks said.

"He didn't say one word and I wasn't gonna say it. It's over. He's feeling great. He's fought. He's not gonna tell the world 'look at me, I'm sore.' He doesn't want your sympathy. He just fights and he plays the right way. He plays hard."

Brooks is clearly trying to stick up for his star player and change the current media narrative.

As long as the Wizards win, that shouldn't be hard to do.

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Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

The subject of trade rumors and reports of in-fighting at Wizards practice over the past few days, John Wall proved his worth to the Wizards on the court Tuesday night. 

Washington trailed the Clippers by as many as 24 points, but Wall helped orchestrate a furious comeback which concluded in a 125-118 Washington win. Wall led all scorers with 30 points and dished out eight assists. 

After the game, Wall opened up to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller about the cloud of controversy which has surrounded the Wizards this week, as well as a far more serious matter in his personal life: he's gonna be a dad soon!

"It's amazing, man. All the heart and effort and drive I've had for this organization, this team, to hear certain things like being traded, I try to stay focused," he told Miller. "Focused on getting ready to have my new son, trying to turn this organization around, this franchise around and win some games."

"All it is is go out there and compete, dog. All of us go out here and compete, that's one thing I always did since day one is give everything I got. And to hear those type of things, it's kind of funny. It's frustrating at the same time, but I've been through worse things. I just stand over top of all that."

And as his coach, Scott Brooks, has been preaching over the last few weeks, Wall believes the only way the Wizards turn around their season is if they show one thing: effort. 

"It's just about effort, man. Effort and heart," he said. "I've been preaching that since I've been here from day one, and in the second half we gave a lot of effort and heart. That's why we came back and fought hard, and got a great win that we needed."

"In the first half, we didn't play with no energy, no sense of urgency, and they beat the brakes off of us. We got to find a way to dig deep, and we made some big shots and got some big stops."

"It's not where we want to be, it's not where we started. Dealing with injuries, dealing with those type of things, you make no excuses. Whoever step between these lines, you go out there and compete, and that's all I ask for the14 guys, including myself, is to go play hard.

It's far too early to declare it as such, but if the Wizards can build off of Tuesday's performance, it may very well be looked at as the night Wall and Washington turned their season around. 

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