When rumbling about Andy Pettitte's comeback started rumbling during spring training, he was seen as a tasty bonus to what looked like a fairly deep rotation.
It didn't take long for that depth to go away. Michael Pineda got hurt, Freddy Garcia remained Freddy Garcia and Pettitte's eventual arrival in the Bronx turned him from bonus piece to required part of the puzzle.
What does that make him now?
Pettitte makes his second ballyhooed return of the season on Tuesday night against the Blue Jays after finally recovering from the broken ankle he suffered when a line drive hit him in late June.
You're all familiar with what's gone down with the Yankees between now and then, a series of misadventures that make the team even more desperate for Pettitte's return than they were the first time around.
Much of that has to do with what's gone down with CC Sabathia of late. Sabathia hasn't been the kind of ace who makes you comfortable just because he's on the mound as he's given back lead after lead while generally looking like something less than the imposing presence he usually provides at the front of the rotation.
And there are nothing but question marks behind him. They vary in size depending on the pitcher, but they exist next to every other name.
Hiroki Kuroda? Has been worth every penny of the contract he signed this offseason, but he's given up at least three runs in each of his last five starts and that hints at a possible issue in terms of the gas tank.
Phil Hughes? He's pitched well of late, but the map of Hughes' career shows peaks and valleys that would make for a better roller coaster than a rotation stalwart with October just around the corner.
Ivan Nova? Nova had a good start over the weekend, his first since coming off the disabled list following a shoulder issue that popped up just as his season went up in flames. Maybe things fell back into place and maybe they didn't, but one start doesn't provide any answer.
So the Yankees could use a little certainty on the mound for the final push and they'll look to Pettitte to provide it. He won't throw nine innings on Tuesday and, in order to avoid doing too much too soon, may not get into the sixth even if he pitches well, but the Yankees will take whatever amount they can get if it looks like the pitching they got from Pettitte before his injury.
There are 16 games left in the regular season and the Yankees are looking for a hero to lead them to wins in as many as possible. Who better to look to than the man who made stabilizing playoff series with Game Two wins one of his calling cards?
Pettitte fits the bill of what the Yankees need. Tuesday night will let us know if the old cape still fits.