TAMPA, Fla. — Greg Bird faced Andy Pettitte during regular batting practice Tuesday morning but wasn’t done.
“He wanted to do some extra work on the backfields,” Pettitte said.
So Pettitte, who arrived here Tuesday for a two-day stint as a guest instructor, and Bird went to Field 2.
Bird asked Pettitte, still behind a protective screen 45 feet away, to do more than throw batting practice fastballs.
“He wanted to work on some two-seamers, running balls in and cutters, so I was kind of throwing him all my pitches,” said Pettitte, 44. “He said he hasn’t seen a whole lot of lefties in the spring so far.”
Pettitte, 256-153 in his career, including 219-127 with the Yankees, came away impressed. Both with Bird’s maturity in requesting the extra work and with the 24-year-old’s swing.
“Man, I’ve only been here one day but he was covering balls really, really well,” Pettitte said. “He looks like a great hitter. Haven’t had a chance to see Greg swing a whole lot but he looked great today.”
Bird wasn’t the only young Yankee to spend time with Pettitte. Earlier in the day, the all-time leader in postseason victories (19) watched two of Yankees’ top pitching prospects, 23-year-old righthander James Kaprielian and 20-year-old lefthander Justus Sheffield, throw bullpens.
“Looked like he had a pretty live fastball,” Pettitte said of Sheffield. “You could tell he’s a work in progress. I know they’re working on a slider with him. You know he’s a great talent, it’s just a matter of him developing.”
Kaprielian, 23, spent some time talking with Pettitte after his session.
“He’s one of the guys who I grew up watching as much as possible,” Kaprielian said. “A guy like that, he’s done it all. He’s a winner. Any time you can just sit down and listen and pick somebody’s brain like that, who’s had success at the highest level, it’s exciting for me as a young guy.”
Pettitte famously came out of his first retirement after spending some time as a guest instructor in 2012. He retired for good after the 2013 season and hasn’t been tempted to return.
“You just know it’s over,” said Pettitte, now the pitching coach for Houston’s Second Baptist High School, where former Yankee Lance Berkman is the head coach (the school won a state title last May). “You’re too old. There’s not really any interest in doing this anymore. It [playing days] feels like a lifetime ago.”