NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte's margin for error is shrinking, but so are the odds that he won't be able to make a return by the end of the season. Pettitte, who has missed two months while recovering from a fractured left ankle, made a huge step forward by throwing a bullpen session Friday.
Pettitte said that it wasn't a "hard" bullpen and that he didn't fully exert himself, but the fact that he was able to get on the mound and throw 20 pitches was a huge relief. Pettitte hasn't pitched in a game since June 27, but he said that Friday's bullpen session gives him confidence going forward.
"It was huge," said Pettitte. "I'm sure that you guys talking to me could tell that I was getting a little paranoid about how this thing's going to feel. Today was good. I didn't get out there and push off as hard as I could and let it fly, but I was just introducing myself back to the mound. I felt really comfortable, so that was a good thing. And my arm felt just free and easy. That was another good thing."
Pettitte, who ended his retirement before this season to have a shot at another World Series ring with the Yankees, went 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in his first nine starts. The veteran took a batted ball off his ankle in a June 27 start, an impact that broke his ankle and mandated a six-week recovery.
Pettitte said that he tried to throw each of his pitches while on the mound Friday, and he also said that he'd discuss his performance and how he feels with the team's training staff. They'll make a plan for his prognosis after that, and Pettitte hopes to take two weeks to work back to peak condition.
The left-hander had a setback in his recovery in July, and that development caused him to fear whether he'd be able to make it back on time. Pettitte has worked closely in consultation with the Yankees' training staff, and he said a conservative schedule has helped him to recover just in time.
"If you look at the calendar, you'd try to get two starts before the playoffs," he said. "I don't want to do anything stupid over the next four or five days. There's no doubt about it. If I go backwards, there's no way I can get ready. When I said that, it was true. That's still there. Until Doc tells me, 'You're completely out of the woods and you can just go at it,' I'll continue to try to be as cautious as I can."
The news of Pettitte's bullpen session was a great bulletin for Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who also told reporters that Ivan Nova threw his first long-toss session on Friday. Girardi said that the Yankees would love to have Pettitte back in time for the playoffs, health and fitness permitting.
"That means his leg is obviously feeling a lot better for him to do what he did today, and that's what we needed to see," Girardi said. "We have plenty of people watching him when he's doing his bullpens and making sure that he's all right. But really the only way you're going to know is if you go out there and throw. I don't see Andy trying to do too much. He knows what he has to do to get ready."