Pettitte sharp in spring debut

Pettitte sharp in spring debut

TAMPA, Fla. -- Standing in sunlight at the center of Legends Field, Andy Pettitte removed himself from the turmoil of his turbulent winter.

Making his Grapefruit League debut against the Phillies, Pettitte threw two scoreless innings in Yankees' 7-7 tie on Sunday, enjoying a warm reception in New York's first home exhibition game against Major League competition.

"As long as I'm healthy, Spring Training doesn't matter to me," Pettitte said. "I'm just trying to get my pitches in. As long as I can continue to build my pitch count up, I've been doing this long enough where I'm not worried about the results. I know that if I'm healthy, everything will take care of itself."

Not everything went exactly as planned in Pettitte's 21-pitch, 13-strike outing. He was slightly irked when his command appeared to be off in the first inning, issuing a one-out walk to Jayson Werth before inducing Chase Utley to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"He didn't look sharp the first inning, and you don't expect him to the first time out," manager Joe Girardi said. "But the second inning, he looked really sharp. The sinker was outstanding and he mixed in a couple of curveballs and changeups. Everything was down."

In that second inning, Pettitte again faced the minimum, helped by Robinson Cano's nifty one-hop throw to first across his body to retire Pat Burrell with the first out.

After Pedro Feliz legged out an infield hit, Pettitte showcased his pickoff move -- historically one of the league's best -- to catch Feliz leaning for the second out. Pettitte then froze designated hitter Val Pascucci looking at a 92 mph offering to end the frame.

"Everything was right where I wanted it," Pettitte said. "That was definitely encouraging."

Catcher Jorge Posada, working behind the plate, concurred.

"I thought he had a lot sharper location [in the second inning]. It was a lot better," Posada said. "The first inning, he looked like he was a little bit off delivery-wise, but he got through it. I don't think there's any concern."

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Even though Pettitte still feels that he is a bit behind the Yankees' other starters physically, wear and tear that can be credited in part to his back-and-forth trips to Washington, D.C., and accompanying stress, he came to Tampa with a project in mind.

Pettitte started the game-action portion of work on a slide-step delivery, which he hopes will cut down certain American League baserunners -- he didn't name names, but clearly a few have troubled him -- from taking generous jumps on the lefty, particularly off second base.

It's not perfect, but Pettitte used it to throw a strike and the runner didn't go. So far, so good.

"It throws the hitter a little off, too," Posada said. "He's quicker to the plate and didn't lose velocity. I think this will help, obviously."

Pettitte has also been working with the Yankees' young pitchers in an early morning training regimen, which -- ironically, given recent events -- is a holdover from Roger Clemens' days in pinstripes.

Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy have been among the frequent participants in an intensive, endurance-building 35-minute regimen that includes seven-minute miles, weightlifting and running stairs.

"Right now, it's killing me, but it's going to help me," Pettitte said. "I'm getting to where I need to be and they're working extremely hard. I'm just proud of all those guys, the way they're working. They came in great shape and they're helping me right now."

What Pettitte has repeatedly called "a bad offseason" was marred by his inclusion in the Mitchell Report, which prompted him to admit using human growth hormone twice during the 2002 season. Summoned to testify for a Congressional committee investigating Clemens' claims against the Report, Pettitte also admitted to a third use of growth hormone in 2004.

Clemens has repeatedly and vehemently denied using performance-enhancing drugs, saying under oath that Pettitte "misremembered" the conversation. Clemens' denials have prompted an investigation to determine if he perjured himself before Congress.

"I just can't wait until the day when I don't have to answer a whole lot of questions about that," Pettitte said. "I can't do anything more than I've done. I've apologized and I've got a job to do now. I can't waste any more energy emotionally on that whole deal."

On Sunday, he didn't have to, leaving it all out on the diamond.

"It was definitely a good day," Pettitte said.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.