Anticipation turns to reality with Pettitte's return

Anticipation turns to reality with Pettitte's return

NEW YORK -- The anticipation has been building since Andy Pettitte announced during Spring Training that he was looking to make a comeback with the Yankees.

Finally, the veteran left-hander was back in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse on Sunday to cap that comeback with his first start since Game 3 of the 2010 American League Championship Series. One year and 224 days have passed since he last toed the rubber in the Bronx, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't see much of a change in the southpaw when he saw him Sunday.

"He looks like Andy," Girardi said. "I haven't noticed much of a change in him. He's doing his work like he always does on a day he starts."

Pettitte was activated Sunday afternoon with the third-highest win total of any pitcher in franchise history (203). He ranks second in total wins (240), starts (479) and strikeouts (2,251) among active Major League pitchers.

Pitcher Cody Eppley was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday afternoon to make room for Pettitte on the roster. Mariano Rivera was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

"I'm excited," Pettitte said earlier this week. "So excited to just get back in uniform and get back with the guys, and just hang with them on the bench and stuff like that. The fans [coming to see] me making my starts down in the Minor Leagues, that's just been awesome and stuff like that. It's time now."

Girardi said he would be pleased if Pettitte can give the Yankees six solid innings on Sunday, though he realizes it may be some time before Pettitte fully rounds into form.

Either way, the urgency for Pettitte to help the Yankees' rotation is not what it was just weeks ago. After each pitcher in the rotation dealt with some kind of troubles early in the year, the group entered Sunday with a 4-0 record and 1.31 ERA over the first five games of the current six-game homestand.

"I think that now that everyone's starting to throw the ball better, it takes a little pressure off of him," Girardi said. "I think people were looking at him coming back and being somewhat of a guy that can stabilize the rotation. Now, it looks like it's stabilizing more before he got here."

Girardi said he hopes to see Pettitte pitch at 88 mph early on this season, and hopes that Pettitte's adept ability to self correct on the mound will remain.

"He understands what he needs to do -- to get his sinker down, or to get more depth on his curveball," Girardi said. "I think he knows how to make those adjustments. The one thing I don't think he's forgotten how to do is how to pitch and how to make adjustments. I think adjustments, sometimes, as you get older are maybe a little bit easier because you've had to make them along the way."