NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — How much longer will Andy Pettitte pitch?

He’s about to begin his 18th season in the big leagues, and he doesn’t at all appear to be on his last legs.

The three-time All-Star faced batters for the first time this spring in a simulated game on Sunday, and he expressed optimism that he can keep hurling for years to come.

“I’m loving being back,” the 40-year-old said. “I’m excited about the season and this organization and trying to help us win another championship. If I stay healthy, I feel like I can pitch for a long time. It doesn’t mean I want to, but I feel like I could.”

After taking the 2011 season off, Pettitte signed with the Yankees on March 16 last spring. He suffered a fractured ankle and missed over two months of the season, but managed to make 12 starts and go 5-4. In 75 1/3 innings pitched, Pettitte pitched to an impressive 2.87 ERA, striking out 69 and issuing 21 walks.

“I’m obviously all in,” Pettitte, who tossed 34 pitches over two innings, said. “If you can locate and change speeds, you can pitch for a long time in this league.”

Last week, the five-time World Champion told WFAN host Mike Francesa at Yankees camp in Tampa that he feels he’s a better pitcher now than he was when he was younger.

That’s quite a statement from a player who was an American League Championship Series MVP over a decade ago.

“It’s crazy, I feel like my command is just a lot better,” Pettitte told Francesa. “I feel like the change of my speeds and the idea of what I want to do out there is just so much clearer. I feel like it’s a little bit easier for me now. I’m completely a better pitcher now. I know I’m older, but I feel like I’m a better pitcher … I feel like I can just get the ball right where I want to a lot more than I used to.”

Pettitte said that his plan is to throw at least one more simulated game before making his spring training debut.

Pettitte claims that he’s a better pitcher now than he was when he was younger. Are you buying that, or is it a ridiculous statement? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…

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