Pettitte threw 96 pitches in an extended spring training outing against members of the Philadelphia Phillies organization on Monday, allowing six runs – five earned – and 10 hits while striking out eight without a walk over 5 2/3 frames.
But the news afterward wasn’t about Pettitte giving up six runs to a bunch of minor leaguers. It was about how the soon to be officially unretired Yankees hurler was ready to reclaim his pinstripes.
“I'm trying to be a good pupil here and do what they tell me,” Pettitte told reporters in Clearwater, Fla. “If it was up to me, I would love to be back up (in the Major Leagues).”
For now, that’s not likely.
The plan all along from the Yankee brass was to get Pettitte a pair of starts at the 100-pitch level to fully stretch out his arm in anticipation for his Yankee debut. That would put Pettitte most likely in Trenton for his next start against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on May 5.
Even though Freddy Garcia was vanquished to the pen after a string of ineffective outings and Phil Hughes has been terrible in the rotation as well, for now, the Bombers will resist the temptation to rush Pettitte back early.
Instead, the Yankees will start David Phelps in place of Garcia and hope that some mechanical adjustments that Hughes made after reviewing tape of some bullpen outings in 2009 will reap rewards in his start against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.
“He’ll pitch again in five days,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the New York Post. “At least one more (start) in the minors.”
Truth be told, Pettitte wasn’t exactly great on Monday. However, the Yankees hurler admits that he was just doing what pitchers do in spring training – working on some of the pitches in his arsenal and throwing some of them in counts where he normally would not.
Case in point was a 3-2 changeup to Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguer Trey Ford, who deposited the ball over the fence for a three-run homer.
“He had swung over top of the pitch in his previous at-bat and that's just something I have to be able to do (in the Majors),” Pettitte told reporters. “If I'm going to throw that pitch in that situation, I have to throw it out of the strike zone.
“Down here, I get too aggressive, and he made a good swing on it, too. But it's good, because I know where I am with my pitches and what I have to do to be successful.”
Bounced from a projected start in Portland, Maine because of a forecast for temperatures in the mid-40s to low-50s, Pettitte pitched under ideal 80-plus degree temperatures in Florida. The only issue according to Chris Girandola of the team’s official website may have been a stiff breeze that helped Ford’s ball over the fence.
The team’s official website also reported that Pettitte’s fastball was clocked in the 86-88 m.p.h. range and that the velocity on it did not change as the southpaw reached his pitch limit in the sixth. Pettitte also threw a lot of strikes against eager extended spring hitters, hurling 71 of 96 in the strike zone.
“I feel I'm strong enough and ready to make my next start with (the Yankees),” Pettitte said. “I feel good and it was another solid day. I felt the quality of pitches were as good as I've had in any of my starts up to now, and I was able to hold my velocity throughout. I feel like I'm ready to help the team.”