New York Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte pitched four shutout innings in a minor league rehab start Thursday night and said it felt good to be back on the mound.
Pettitte allowed two hits and struck out four in Double-A Trenton’s Eastern League playoff game against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He had 37 strikes among his 51 pitches.
”I want to get back,” he said after detouring to the bullpen for an additional 14 pitches. ”I want to pitch in the big leagues as soon as I can and help my club. I feel I can give us a pretty decent four or five innings my next time out if I have to make a big league start.”
A healthy Pettitte is considered crucial to the Yanks’ chances of repeating as World Series champions. The 38-year-old is 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 18 starts with New York this year.
The location of Pettitte’s next outing could depend on how well Trenton does in its best-of-five playoff series. He hasn’t appeared in a major league game since July 18 because of a strained left groin.
Pettitte said he still needs to build stamina, but was generally happy with his control, particularly his ability to locate his fastball down and away for strikes. He also was pleased with his curveball, but not so much with his changeup, which accounted for one of his two wild pitches.
”It was a step in the right direction,” he said. ”I feel my stuff will get better each time I get out there.”
The Yankees are closely watching Pettitte’s progress in light of the continued ineffectiveness of starters A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez, and the recent inconsistency of Phil Hughes.
Pettitte bought steaks for his new teammates in keeping with a tradition of rehabbing major leaguers treating the minor leaguers to a clubhouse feast. He said he wasn’t displeased that his well-fed squad failed to score for him.
”The other guy threw the ball pretty well, too,” he said, referring to New Hampshire right-hander Zach Stewart.
A season-high crowd of 8,072 watched the game at Mercer County Waterfront Park, where the game was scoreless in the 8th inning.
Pettitte said he’s eager to return to the Yankees.
”You feel like a zero when you’re not contributing, and you’re on the DL,” he said.