Andy Pettitte's next start likely will come in the playoffs.
The minor-league playoffs, that is.
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Pettitte threw 50 pitches in three innings of a simulated game at Yankee Stadium before yesterday's contest against the Blue Jays. Now the only obstacle standing in his way of making that much-anticipated rehab start is the minor-league schedule.
The affiliates that still will be playing Wednesday, when Pettitte is scheduled to test his recovery from a strained groin, are Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Double-A Trenton and Class A Tampa, all of which will be in the playoffs. Tampa is at Dunedin; the schedules for the Triple-A semifinals and the Double-A playoffs have not been finalized. If necessary, Pettitte indicated he could pitch another simulated game.
Out since July 18 with the groin strain, Pettitte might need only one rehab outing before rejoining the Yankees' rotation. He reported no issues after the simulated game.
"I felt better each inning I went out there," said Pettitte, who sat down for five minutes between innings to replicate game conditions. "And I felt like the last inning out, I turned it up pretty good and wasn't worrying about anything at all. The first two, I think I was a little tentative, just kind of feeling it out . . . It took me a little while to get going. But I didn't feel anything. I didn't have any problems at all. It was great. Just a good step in the right direction, that's for sure."
Reggie Jackson called balls and strikes and Chad Moeller caught Pettitte, who allowed four "hits" and struck out five in throwing to live batters - Greg Golson, Ramiro Peña (batting lefthanded) and Alex Rodriguez - for the first time since the injury.
Rodriguez, out since Aug. 20 with a strained left calf, was 2-for-5 with a double. He's eligible to be activated today. "I did feel good. It was an encouraging day today," he said. "There were no new setbacks, and it was actually a good test.''
A-Rod seemed fairly spry as he took about 40 grounders at third. He didn't run at full speed around the bases, but Joe Girardi said he felt "good about what he did today."
Despite inconsistent starting pitching of late - and although the Yankees are 21-3 without Rodriguez - Girardi said he doesn't put a premium on getting Pettitte back over A-Rod.
"I don't think you place an importance," he said. "I think they're both key components for us. We need them both back."