Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte in a 2009 file photo.

Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte in a 2009 file photo. Credit: David Pokress

For the Yankees, the past never gets old, and they are hoping that a certain pitcher hasn't, either. For Sunday's game against the Mariners at the Stadium, they plan to send 39-year-old Andy Pettitte to the mound, 20 months after his retirement.

The occasion could add to Yankees folklore of assumed baseball dominance. Although, for now, the Yankees would settle for some stabilization of a quaking rotation. With offseason acquisition Michael Pineda lost for the season because of shoulder surgery and a starters' ERA of 5.54 through Monday -- 11th in the American League -- any semblance of Pettitte's past efficiency would offer some of that old-time Yankee religion.

"Awesome,'' outfielder Nick Swisher said. "One of the things that I love about him the most is his competitive nature, his will to want the ball, his will to want to be out there.''

Phil Hughes called Pettitte "intimidating, even if he doesn't necessarily throw as hard as he used to . . . He still has to be feared on the other side of the field.''

Third on the Yankees' all-time list with 203 of his 240 career victories, Pettitte's last Yankee Stadium appearance came Sept. 24, 2010 -- a loss to Boston. His last victory, before he was sidelined by a back injury for almost two months, coincidentally was against the Mariners -- on July 8, 2010.

He brings to Sunday's game a reputation for big-game success -- his 19 postseason wins are a record -- and that intense image of staring down hitters with his cap pulled low and his glove covering all but his eyes.

"I think,'' manager Joe Girardi said, "all of us probably kind of expect we're going to get Andy Pettitte, what we're used to seeing: a guy that grinds out starts, has the ability to get double plays, doesn't panic out there.

"I think you can only go back on what you've seen before. It's not like he's trying to reinvent himself in a sense. I think his stuff is going to be pretty similar to what he had when he walked away in 2010. That's kind of what I feel. Will I be right? I hope so.''

Signed March 16 and subjected to a personal version of spring training with four minor-league starts, Pettitte did not produce startling numbers (0-2, 3.72 ERA). But general manager Brian Cashman argued, "It's hard to judge on results'' because minor-league assignments don't trigger the same "intensity, the adrenaline, the focus'' of pitching a big-league game.

"We feel the next step should come here,'' Cashman said. "I think everybody is in agreement that he's not going to really benefit from any more time down below. Whether there's a gap between what the old Andy Pettitte was, and what we're going to get, I just don't know yet. But we're looking forward to adding another healthy arm to the mix here.''

With an eye to the weather, Girardi intends to start rookie David Phelps (3.74 ERA) Wednesday night, CC Sabathia (4.15) Thursday, Hiroki Kuroda (3.75) on Friday and Hughes (6.67) Saturday before Pettitte is plugged into what would be the next turn of Ivan Nova (5.01), who allowed two runs in seven innings in a win over the Rays on Tuesday night.

"It's a cool moment in Yankees history,'' first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "I hate to be sappy about it, but Andy Pettitte's one of the greatest pitchers to put on this uniform. One of my favorite teammates of all time.''

With the Yankees, so much is about "all time.''

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