BALTIMORE -- Andy Pettitte called yesterday's simulated game "another good day'' -- so good, in fact, that he made a declaration that was a first during his rehab from a fractured left ankle.
"I'll pitch whenever they tell me. I'm ready,'' he said before Saturday night's game. "I want to pitch. I don't want to be stupid, but I didn't think I was going to come back and be as sharp as I am.''
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The Yankees, of course, won't be running him out to the mound anytime soon, though they're closing in on a date. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he wants to see how Pettitte feels Sunday before putting anything in stone, but he added that the plan is for Pettitte to throw another simulated game sometime during the upcoming series in Boston.
"Really good,'' Rothschild said of what he saw from Pettitte in Saturday's 45-pitch simulated game. "Everything was good -- velocity, location, the movement on his breaking ball was really good. He's clearly kept up his arm strength.''
It was the most significant test yet for Pettitte's ankle as he basically simulated three innings. It was quite a jump from his previous simulated game on Wednesday, when he threw 15 pitches.
"I thought it would take a lot of bullpens and some game work, but since my command's been so good, I think everyone's been comfortable just running me back out there with these simulated games as quick as we can,'' Pettitte said. "It was good. I was able to sit down and get back up. Exactly what I need to do.''
"I feel like my stuff is pretty close to where I want it to be,'' Pettitte said. "Larry and Hark, who see me throw all the time, said that I'm really good. The hitters told me I'm really good, so that's a good sign for sure.''
Girardi said he doesn't have a target date for Pettitte to come back, though there has been talk that the lefthander will be reinserted in the rotation, barring any setbacks, in seven to 10 days. Girardi, who said it has been "a little surprising'' how sharp Pettitte has looked in his simulated games, didn't dispute the possibility that he'll be back after the Boston series, saying "nothing's out of the question at this point.''
First things first, however, starting with Pettitte's weekly doctor's appointment. "I'll see the doctor Monday and I feel quite sure that he'll release me to be able to go ahead and go at it,'' said Pettitte, referring to running at full speed.
"He still has to cover bases and do all those things,'' Girardi said. "Until he can run, you can't really do that, so that's kind of a big day for him.''
For Pettitte, 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA when he went on the DL June 28, the biggest day will be when he finally is pitching again.
He characterized being sidelined as "terrible,'' especially given the team's struggles the last seven weeks. "When things get tough, you want to be one of those guys the pressure's thrown on instead of some other guys,'' Pettitte said. "That's what I came back for, and you feel like you're doing nothing but sitting on the bench being a cheerleader. It's not a good place to be, especially when you want to be out there in the middle of it.''