Andy Pettitte optimistic after 'huge' bullpen session

Andy Pettitte delivers a pitch against the New

Andy Pettitte delivers a pitch against the New York Mets at Citi Field. (June 22, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Everything about Andy Pettitte's broken bone has worked against him.

The timing -- he was scorched by a line drive the same day CC Sabathia went on the disabled list. The placement -- his left fibula, near the ankle he uses to push off the rubber in his delivery. And the rehab -- a rushed two weeks in late July that caused him to stress the injury and set back his recovery.

So when Pettitte, who now has been on the disabled list for more than two months, said Friday's bullpen session was "huge," there's reason to believe he wasn't being overly optimistic. After pitching off a mound for the first time since suffering the injury June 27, he thinks he finally is closing in on a return to game action.

"I felt great," said Pettitte, who threw 20 pitches before Friday night's game against the Orioles. "It was huge . . . I was getting a little paranoid as far as how this thing was going to feel and today, I feel good. I didn't get in there and just push off as hard as I could and let it fly, but I was just, in the doc's words, 'introducing myself back to the mound.' "

Pettitte, 40 -- who was 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA before his injury -- said he is acutely aware of the dangers of doing too much too soon, and with 2012 marking his first (and possibly last) year back from retirement, his fervor to pitch is at a clawing-at-the-bullpen-door breaking point.

"I want to get back," he said. "I still gotta be careful, I think . . . I don't want to do anything stupid over the next four or five days, but I think I'm real close to being where this thing is really close to being healed up completely.

"If I go backwards, there's no way I can get ready."

Pettitte said if all goes well, he'll get at least two major-league starts before the postseason. Because most minor- league teams end their seasons before September, his rehab choices are limited, though Joe Girardi said the Yankees will increase his pitches during bullpen sessions to an estimated 30 to 35 and go from there.

"My command is good,'' Pettitte said when asked about possible rehab assignments. "All my pitches are coming off my fingers really good, so you know, that was one thing you worry about. I don't know how it's going to be the next time I come out, but when I came back, everything just got better and better each bullpen, each outing, so I would hope that I would take the same path right now coming back from this.''

Girardi called Friday "a step in the right direction'' and added, "That means his leg is obviously feeling a lot better for him to be doing what he did today, and that's what we needed to see."

What the doctor needs to see comes Saturday. Pettitte will be evaluated by the team physician Christopher Ahmad to ensure he shows no ill effects from the day before, setting the tone for the future.

"I felt really comfortable," Pettitte said. "My arm felt free and easy and good . . . I need to get on the mound and throw a hard bullpen and push off as hard as I can and see how we adjust to that, but I feel like I'm getting real, real close to getting over the hump."

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