Pettitte looks to get back on track

Pettitte looks to get back on track

OAKLAND -- Andy Pettitte rapped the inside of his locker, touching knuckles to wood for good luck. The topic of the 2009 season had just come up, but for the Yankees' left-hander, getting through the current campaign had already proven a trying enough proposition.

"You definitely think about that," Pettitte said. "I definitely think that would be an honor and a joy to do that, but right now I'm just thinking about this year."

Pettitte will try to straighten it out again on Thursday as the Yankees complete their three-game series with the A's at the McAfee Coliseum. In his last start, Pettitte tied a career-high by allowing 10 earned runs in a no-decision to the Royals at Yankee Stadium, receiving fortunate offensive support in New York's 12-11, walk-off victory.

Even despite that afternoon of frustration -- it was the third time in Pettitte's career he allowed 10 earned runs, last having done so on April 4, 2006, with Houston vs. Florida -- Pettitte insists that he has overcome the Spring Training slowdown that hampered some of his early-season pitch counts. That makes the recent trend all the more baffling.

"There's no doubt I feel great," Pettitte said. "I've been throwing really good. It's definitely frustrating; you feel like you're comfortable with your command and you throw the ball where you want to, you're going to be successful.

"I just chalk it up to [that] it's baseball and I'm going to have some bad starts. I prepare myself as good as I can, and the rest you hope takes care of itself."

Pettitte, 35, hasn't been quite what the Yankees expected when they brought him back for one more season with a one-year, $16 million commitment, matching his '07 salary and terms. But there is some historical hope -- he had four wins at the All-Star break last year and finished 11-3 in the second half to get to 15 wins. In 2006, he was 3-7 at the break and finished with 14 wins.

Pettitte snapped a five-start winless streak by posting back-to-back victories over the Mariners and Orioles to close out May, but has allowed 14 earned runs in 13 2/3 June innings, a 9.22 ERA. The frustration has bubbled over, said Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

"You see it every time he's on the mound, but I've seen that for a long time," Girardi said. "I could see Andy roll off five wins in a row and then he loses a game and you see that frustration. He doesn't hide it well, but that's OK. That's Andy Pettitte and that's who he is.

"I don't worry about it. ... He's always seemed to get better as the year went on. Most of the time he's looked pretty decent. He's had a couple rough outings but I don't expect that to last."

Neither did Pettitte fret when he looked at the schedule and saw that he'd be pitching in Oakland -- where he is 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA in nine career starts -- instead of at Houston, where the Yankees open a three-game series on Friday behind Joba Chamberlain.

Pettitte had the Houston trip circled on his calendar for a different reason -- it's not often he can sleep in his own bed during the season, logging some quality Texas time with the family -- but the added bonus of actually pitching in the series was rather unnecessary.

"It really didn't matter," Pettitte said. "I knew we were going there and I thought it might line up where I'd pitch there. At first I thought it would have been kind of nice. Now that I'm not pitching there, I'm extremely excited just because I'm going to have three days to mentally chill and not have to worry about preparing for a start."

Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (5-5, 4.99 ERA)
Though Pettitte strung together his worst line in 12 years, allowing 10 runs on 10 hits to the Royals on Saturday, he earned a no-decision after the Yankees capped a furious comeback with a walk-off single in the ninth. Pettitte was hurt mostly by a lack of location, leaving pitches in the middle of the plate -- including one that Jose Guillen hit for a grand slam to knock Pettitte out of the game. His next start will come against the Athletics, a team that tagged him for an 8.31 ERA in two starts last year.

OAK: RHP Joe Blanton (3-8, 4.15 ERA)
Blanton pitched seven strong innings in his last start against the Angels, but John Lackey threw seven stronger innings as the A's fell, 3-1, and Blanton got stuck with his second straight loss. He surrendered three runs (two earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk while the A's bats failed to give him much support at the plate. Blanton has never fared well against the Yankees. He got a no-decision in his only start against them last year, giving up three runs on five hits through 6 2/3 innings. Lifetime, he is 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA against New York.

Tidbits
Joba Chamberlain will be permitted to throw 95 pitches on Friday. ... Right-hander Andrew Brackman underwent an appendectomy in Tampa, Fla., and will be sidelined for three weeks. Brackman, the Yankees' first-round Draft pick in 2007, was not expected to pitch competitively this season, but still may be able to take part in fall ball. ... The Yankees have seen the .500 mark 23 times this season, matching the 1959 Chicago Cubs for the most times at .500 for any team in Major League history through 66 games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 1-2, 2.67) at Astros (Shawn Chacon, 2-2, 4.96), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 9-4, 3.82) at Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 2-2, 1.99), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 7-2, 4.30) at Astros (Roy Oswalt, 5-6, 5.06), 2:05 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.