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Andy Pettitte confident that CC Sabathia can bounce back

Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia throws in the bullpen

Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia throws in the bullpen at Steinbrenner Field on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. - CC Sabathia made it clear to the media over the weekend that he isn't interested in discussing his velocity.

He has nothing to gain from that, anyway. But chatting about it with Andy Pettitte is another matter.

Pettitte, who retired after last season, arrived at Yankees camp Monday and will stay through Wednesday as a guest instructor. He watched Sabathia's morning bullpen session, standing behind the lefthander along with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

The pitchers grew close during five seasons as teammates, and they have talked about the adjustments that must be made to pitch effectively at a lower velocity. Though never a power pitcher in the mold of Sabathia, Pettitte still had to change his approach after elbow surgery in 2004 that caused him to lose much of his velocity.

"The biggest thing for me is I'm trying to tell him don't worry about it," Pettitte said Monday. "Whatever the velocity is, it is. You can't worry about that, you just need to get guys out with what you've got. So the biggest hurdle is mentally and not to worry about that."

Sabathia, 33, has compiled a 205-115 record with a 3.60 ERA in 13 seasons. Pettitte, 256-153 with a 3.85 ERA in 18 years and baseball's all-time leader with 19 postseason wins, said Sabathia has plenty in his arsenal.

"CC's got everything it takes to be successful," Pettitte said. "I mean mentally, stuff-wise. Look, when your velocity's not quite there, you have to rely a little bit more on movement and command and to be able to change speeds and do different things pitching, and he can do all those things."

In his first spring training start Saturday, Sabathia's fastball topped out at 91 mph, according to several scouts who had radar guns on him, and sat mostly at 87 to 89.

Afterward, Sabathia did not warm to the topic. "My fastball is what it is," he said. "If it gets better, it will; if not, it won't. I can pitch. I'm fine. As long as I'm healthy, I'll be good."

Sabathia was a career-worst 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA in 2013, and Pettitte said "there's not a big secret" to his being good again.

"If the velocity's not there, better have some movement on it," Pettitte said. "I know he's doing things to try and accomplish that. He's too much of a competitor not to be successful. And he's got a great club around him, so he's going to be just fine."

It's a club featuring Derek Jeter in his final season. Pettitte said he was mildly surprised at the shortstop's retirement announcement last month but not shocked, disclosing that Jeter hinted at it toward the end of his injury-plagued 2013.

"I just noticed a little difference in him that last month of the season," Pettitte said. "He would talk about it all the time . . . just kind of jokingly, or I took it as a joke. Obviously, he was a little more serious than I took."

And, no, since you asked, Pettitte, 41, said he will not be un-retiring a second time.

"There's nothing in the works, I promise you," Pettitte said with a smile. "I just want to be around the kids. I want to see them do some stuff now. I wasn't going to be able to be committed to this [baseball] and I knew that, and if I can't, I'm just not going to do it. But it's great. I'm so blessed. I had a great career."

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