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Pettitte looks to play stopper for Yanks

Pettitte looks to play stopper for Yanks

NEW YORK -- Almost in identical sentence structures, three key voices of the Yankees organization -- manager Joe Girardi, general manager Brian Cashman and co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner -- all urged fans to have patience and to understand that there were going to be growing pains with their young pitchers.

What the Yankees didn't project or count on was that both of their prized starting pitchers, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, would come out of the gate slowly and winless through the season's first month. That has put additional pressure on the three more experienced members of New York's starting staff, including left-hander Andy Pettitte, who starts against the Tigers on Wednesday.

For the most part, there has been an allowance that the 21-year-old Hughes and the 23-year-old Kennedy are making their best efforts to learn at the Major League level -- certainly no easy task.

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Both finished the month of April winless, however, and now the question remains -- how long can the Yankees stay with a pair of pitchers who, for all of their future promise, have not been able to replicate their success from 2007?

"That's something that, as an organization, we'll talk about," Girardi said. "We've seen good things out of our young pitchers. Is it as consistent as any of us want? It's probably not as consistent as they want. They know that they can do better, and we know we can do better."

Hughes took his latest drubbing at the hands of the Tigers on Tuesday, allowing six runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings and getting roughed up for home runs by Curtis Granderson and Gary Sheffield in the third inning. Hughes finished April 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA. Kennedy wrapped up the month 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA, and both have battled command problems and inconsistency.

"It's only been a few starts, and I'm not the type of guy that panics," Girardi said. "I remember what it was like to be a young player. The game sometimes moves very quickly when you're young, and adjustments aren't made as quickly as when you get experience. That's what they're getting now, valuable experience. I'm seeing them make adjustments. I believe these guys will win games for us."

With eight games remaining on their homestand, Pettitte is looking to reprise his usual role of stopper. Pettitte is 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last five starts against the Tigers at Yankee Stadium and has not lost to Detroit in New York since July 20, 2000.

He'll face a Detroit team that earned many preseason raves for its stacked lineup, but began the year 0-7 in the American League Central. Since then, the Tigers have won 10 of their last 15 games as their offense has started to crank.

"When you have a lineup like that, and you have starting pitching like they do and an experienced closer in Todd Jones, you know that they're going to turn it around," Girardi said. "They've just got too many good players in that clubhouse not to turn it around."

Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (3-2, 3.23 ERA)
Pettitte's last start came unhinged in a troublesome fifth inning in which Cleveland scored four times. Pettitte recorded the first two outs easily, but then allowed two singles as his arm strength evaporated, then surrendered back-to-back homers to Jhonny Peralta and Franklin Gutierrez. Pettitte, who walked three and struck out three, noted that he was battling the after-effects of the flu bug that has circulated through the Yankees' clubhouse for weeks. Pettitte beat the Tigers on Aug. 1 at Yankee Stadium, hurling eight innings of one-run ball.

DET: RHP Jeremy Bonderman (1-2, 4.28 ERA)
Bonderman had control problems for the second straight start last time out against the Rangers. He allowed two runs on two hits but walked seven. Bonderman has struggled against the Yankees, going 2-6 in nine starts with a 5.58 ERA. The right-hander owns a 1-3 record at Yankee Stadium. He has especially had problems against outfielder Johnny Damon, who has hit .438 (14-for-32) against him.

Tidbits
Pettitte has yet to allow an extra-base hit to a left-handed batter this season, with the last one coming on Sept. 29, 2007, off the bat of Baltimore's Nick Markakis. ... Lefties are batting just .189 (7-for-37) against Pettitte this season. ... The Yankees are one of four Major League teams not to have played an extra-inning game this season, along with the Astros, Angels and Mariners. ... Hideki Matsui is riding a nine-game hitting streak which surpassed Bobby Abreu's eight-game span from April 11-18 for the team high this season.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Thursday: Yankees (Ian Kennedy, 0-2, 8.53) vs. Tigers (Nate Robertson, 0-3, 6.91), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 5-0, 3.23) vs. Mariners (Erik Bedard, 2-0, 2.04), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 3-3, 4.73) vs. Mariners (Felix Hernandez, 2-1, 2.22), 1:05 p.m. ET

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

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