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Pettitte makes the best of it after rainout

Andy Pettitte during a throwing session at spring

Andy Pettitte during a throwing session at spring training in Tampa, Fla. (Mar. 2, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

TAMPA, Fla. - TAMPA, Fla. - In the past, Andy Pettitte said, losing out to Mother Nature would have bothered him.

Not so much now.

"I think a long time ago, this would have worried me, but now it's like, whatever," Pettitte said. "You're at the point where you know you just need to get your work in."

Pettitte, 37, was supposed to make his first start of spring training Friday in Viera against the Washington Nationals, but 45 minutes into the nearly three-hour bus ride to the other side of the state, the Yankees turned around when word came that the game had been canceled because of rain.

Pettitte, the only starter not to appear in a game, will make his debut Wednesday in Clearwater against the Phillies.

Just as A.J. Burnett had done Thursday when that night's game was rained out, Pettitte threw a three-inning, 50-pitch simulated game instead.

"It's not facing hitters, but it was good," Pettitte said. "I can put myself in a pretty good atmosphere even though it's indoors right here."

Pitching coach Dave Eiland called the balls and strikes and bullpen coach Mike Harkey stood at the plate, impersonating the Phillies' lineup.

Eiland said the idea is to approximate game conditions.

"You're trying to challenge him," he said. "You don't want to just call balls and strikes, you kind of want to make it gamelike. He may throw a pitch in a certain count that would probably get a swing, but I'm not going to give it to him. You have to make it a challenge. It can't just be a go-through-the-motions thing."

Which is never a problem for Pettitte, who approaches bullpen sessions as if they're game days.

"Andy gets after it, just like A.J. did last night," Eiland said. "They let it fly. There's no substitute for a real game, but we want to make it as close as we can."

Pettitte said the most important thing for him at this point of spring training is building his strength.

"I definitely felt stronger than I did my last time out ," he said. "Hopefully, for my next start, I'll feel good to go 60 pitches. I threw 50 today and hopefully, I'll feel good and strong to go 60 in Clearwater. Hopefully, I'll get four innings or so out of that."

Eiland said losing the starts by Pettitte and Burnett isn't ideal, but it isn't a big issue.

"To keep them on schedule, that's what we have to do," he said. "We had to do the same thing with A.J. last night. Unfortunately, you can't mess around with Mother Nature. It is what it is. We make adjustments, do the best we can and hopefully, we won't have to deal with this anymore."

Notes & quotes: Eiland said there's no front-runner for the fifth rotation spot. "As of now, if we had to pick, you really couldn't pick one," he said. "Sample's not big enough.'' . . . Joe Girardi said Phil Hughes will start Tuesday's game and Joba Chamberlain will follow Pettitte on Wednesday against the Phillies . . . Mariano Rivera and Damaso Marte will make their spring training debuts Tuesday night at home against the Astros . . . Curtis Granderson was scheduled to make his first start in leftfield Friday, so he is likely to start there Saturday in a split-squad game against the Orioles.

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