As Nova returns to rotation, Pettitte could be next

As Nova returns to rotation, Pettitte could be next

BOSTON -- Ivan Nova has been slotted back in the Yankees' starting rotation, and Andy Pettitte could be the next pitcher to return.

Nova will start in place of Freddy Garcia against the Rays on Saturday, and after throwing 55 pitches in a simulated game at Fenway Park on Wednesday, Pettitte may now be cleared to pitch in a big league game.

"It might be something that we do; I can't tell you right now," manager Joe Girardi said. "We got through today, which was really good. He's worked hard to get to this point. We have to see how he bounces back."

Pettitte, 40, is clearly campaigning to have his next activity come against big league hitters. The left-hander has been sidelined since fracturing his left ankle on June 27, but he threw four innings of simulated action on Wednesday, including covering first base and fielding bunts.

"I'm ready," Pettitte said. "Can I give you 100 pitches? No, but I feel like my stuff has been crisp. If they want me to do this, then I want to get back in there. I'm comfortable with doing that.

"I feel like my stuff has been good on the days that I've done these simulated games, so I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be good the next time I went out and threw. I'm sure we'll talk in the next day or two and figure out exactly what we're going to do."

Pettitte estimated that he could offer the Yankees "60 to 65 hard pitches without being concerned," and said that his command and breaking pitches have been sharp. He isn't worried about not having seen game action since June.

"I've pitched with enough stuff, not being healthy with elbow issues, groin issues, back," Pettitte said. "Just let me go out there and compete. That's what I want to do. I feel like I can get through it."

Girardi said that Pettitte will be seen by a team physician on Friday in New York. If his ankle is holding up, the Yankees may consider starting Pettitte in place of rookie David Phelps next Tuesday against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

"It's a discussion that we'll have to have as a group," said Girardi, who will consult with team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad, head athletic trainer Steve Donohue and general manager Brian Cashman. "I thought he threw pretty well today. He covered the bases, fielded some bunts and did the things that he had to do."

Nova is rejoining the rotation, having been sidelined since Aug. 21 with inflammation in his right shoulder. He bumps Garcia to long relief after the veteran was 0-1 with a 7.64 ERA over his last four starts, unable to complete five innings in three of the outings.

"We've had struggles getting some length out of our starters," Girardi said. "I like the way that [Nova] threw the other day, and we're going to put him back in the rotation. This guy was really good for us for a substantial period of time, then he ran into some bumps, and we hope he's beyond that."