TAMPA, Fla. -- Andy Pettitte said he felt as if he never left.
Both when he walked into the clubhouse in uniform after more than a year off and, more important to him and the Yankees, during yesterday's bullpen session.
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"I am a little surprised that I felt as good as I did today that quickly," said the 39-year-old Pettitte, who officially came out of retirement Friday to re-sign with the Yankees.
He threw 50 pitches to Russell Martin, who started last night's exhibition game but insisted on catching the lefthander's session. Martin, catching Pettitte for the first time, was impressed.
"That's as good a bullpen as I've caught all spring," Martin said. "As far as executing pitches, that's as good as I've seen."
Pettitte felt so good he half-joked to pitching coach Larry Rothschild that he might be ready for the rotation in three weeks rather than six, the general timetable the Yankees have established.
"I told Larry when I got done, you're going to have to make me take it slow," Pettitte said. "I feel really good. It's going to be hard, but I need to take it slow. I know if I get too far ahead of myself I could have a setback, and I don't want to have that."
Girardi did say, "I don't think it's unrealistic" that Pettitte could debut in a spring training game, but at best he'd throw three innings or 45 pitches. The outings to measure progress will occur after the regular season starts and be watched by eyes other than Girardi's.
Groin and lower-back issues cost Pettitte much of the second half of his final season in 2010, when he went 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA. "There's nothing giving me any trouble," he said.
Next month might bring, while not trouble, a possible distraction, as Pettitte could be called as a witness in the Roger Clemens perjury trial, scheduled to be retried starting April 16.
"I'm sure it could be a distraction,'' Girardi said, "but as players you're taught to put those distractions aside when you go out on the field, and Andy's done a great job of that. It's not like he hasn't had issues to deal with in his life before this."
Said Pettitte: "It won't be a distraction to this team one bit."
Pettitte was in camp a little more than two weeks ago as a guest instructor, though that was mainly a front. Yes, he threw batting practice and chatted with pitchers, but he also came in to let managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner know he was committed to coming back.
Pettitte, who ranks third in franchise history with 203 wins, said he didn't consider pitching for another team if the Yankees had said no. "This is where my heart was," he said.
It has all the potential for a happy ending, but Pettitte knows that isn't guaranteed.
"I know I could get hurt, I could go and blow my elbow out again," he said. "But I'm not scared of that. The Yankees gave me another great opportunity. It's a great challenge.
"I know no matter what happens, I've prayed about this decision with my family for an awful long time and we all feel good about it. We feel right about it."