TRENTON, N.J. (WFAN/AP) — Hours after the Yankees got a heavy dose of bad news, Andy Pettitte came one step closer to completing his comeback.
Pettitte allowed three earned runs and seven singles in five-plus innings for Double-A Trenton on Wednesday night in his third minor-league start as he works toward making New York’s rotation.
Pettitte, 39, struck out three and walked one and came out after allowing a leadoff single in the sixth.
“I felt good,” said Pettitte, who took the loss in the Thunder’s 10-4 defeat to Erie. “It was another step in the right direction. I was a little disappointed with my command and made a few more mistakes than I have been making. All in all another good step forward.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman watched Pettitte and was pleased with the left-hander’s outing.
“Mechanically he’s good,” Cashman said. “He’s healthy. He’s getting his work in. He’s not there yet but he’s on the right track.”
Pettitte will make at least one more minor-league start and possibly as many as three more, according to Cashman, before joining the Yankees. His next start could be Monday for the Thunder at Boston’s Double-A affiliate in Portland, Maine.
Neither Cashman nor Pettitte want to rush his return to the Yankees, even with news Wednesday that 23-year-old Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda will be sidelined for the 2012 season with a shoulder tear.
“Nothing really changes for Andy regardless of what’s taking place at the big-league level,” Cashman said. “He’ll be ready when he’s ready. There’s not going to be any urgency.
“We have to play it safe. We have to make sure when and if he’s ready that it’s going to be something he can maintain and stay consistently healthy.”
The struggling Yankees rotation also wasn’t helped Wednesday by another poor outing from Phil Hughes.
Said Pettitte, “All of it is going to be how my body reacts. I don’t want to have a setback. We’re going to take it day by day and see how I feel. It’s not going to do any good to go up there and not be right. I’m not going to do anybody good by doing that.”
The left-hander received a standing ovation from the crowd when he departed after facing one batter in the sixth, acknowledging the fans with a wave. He threw 81 pitches, 59 for strikes.
Pettitte gave up a run in the first inning on two singles. After retiring the next eight batters, Pettitte walked Romero to lead off the fourth. Romero scored the second run on Rob Brantly’s RBI single to left.
The SeaWolves scored an unearned run in the fifth when Pettitte worked out of a jam. Jamie Johnson led off the fifth with a single to right, then went to third on Addison Maruszak’s error that allowed Rockett to reach second. Maruszak scored on Brandon Douglas’ single to center. But Pettitte escaped further trouble by getting Romero out on a fielder’s choice, Jordan Lennerton on a popup to shortstop and Rawley Bishop on a fielder’s choice groundout.
A fourth run was charged to Pettitte when Rawley Bishop, who led off the sixth, scored on Jamie Johnson’s groundout off reliever Preston Clairborne.
“I’m ecstatic about how he pitched,” Cashman said. “He’s got more to go but he looks good.”
The crowd was a sellout but wasn’t the circuslike atmosphere that greeted Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter during his two-game stint rehabbing with Trenton last July. The Thunder issued 65 credentials for Wednesday’s game, nearly the same as for Jeter’s appearance in Trenton, but far short of the 150 credentials needed for Roger Clemens’ rehab start here in 2007.
Pettitte, followed closely by a dozen cameras, finished his warmup pitches by tossing a ball to 5-year-old Andy Faas of Hamilton, N.J. Other than that, he barely acknowledged the excited crowd as he walked to the home dugout an intense stare before the game.
A three-time All-Star, Pettitte has a career 240-138 record with a 3.88 ERA in 16 seasons — all with the Yankees. He twice won 21 games and accumulated 19 postseason wins and was the 2001 ALCS MVP.
In two starts for Class A Tampa earlier this month, he allowed one earned run on four hits in seven innings, striking out five and walking none.
Should the Yankees continue to play it safe with Pettitte, or do they need him up ASAP? Sound off below…
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