TAMPA, Fla. - Mother Nature continues to be Andy Pettitte's biggest spring training obstacle.
Because the forecast called for about a two-hour storm around the start of yesterday's game against the Tigers, Joe Girardi's plan was to start with relievers, then have Pettitte take the mound for the restart of the game and get to - or at least close to - 100 pitches.
But it never got to that point. After Pettitte pitched a 1-2-3 fourth, the umpires called for the tarp in the bottom of the inning with the Yankees up 8-0. "I don't even know what to say. It was a messed-up day," Pettitte said.
(With the rain getting more intense, it appeared Tigers manager Jim Leyland pulled his team off the field, but he later said he didn't tell the players to head for the clubhouse before the game was officially delayed.)
With the rain steady but light enough to play, Damaso Marte pitched the first inning and Mariano Rivera went out for the second. After Boone Logan's perfect third, Girardi gambled and sent Pettitte out for the fourth. He needed 13 pitches to retire three batters, but the rain intensified and the game was canceled after a 40-minute delay.
Pettitte threw a simulated game underneath the stadium, getting his pitch count up to 100.
"Jorge [Posada] said I gave up a couple homers . . . but also said we won 6-4, so that's perfect," Pettitte said.
But he was frustrated at again having a start disrupted by rain. His first scheduled start, March 12 in Viera against the Nationals, was rained out, and other rainouts forced Girardi to pitch him in an intrasquad game March 22 so the fifth-starter candidates could get innings.
Combining yesterday's truncated outing with his first start, March 17 in Clearwater against the Phillies, Pettitte has pitched five innings and thrown 63 pitches in "real" games.
"It's not what you want, but you have to deal with it," Girardi said. "I don't think it's going to make a difference in July . . . And sometimes these things are a huge blessing in disguise."
Pettitte agreed to a point, saying his arm feels strong and that when it's time for his first regular-season start, scheduled for April 7 in Boston, he'll be set.
"I will be ready and there's no excuses," he said. "I feel like if they needed me to go right now and go pitch against Boston, I'll go pitch and battle my tail off."
He would like to see hitters' reactions in "game action" between now and then, though.
"I'd love to see how my changeup feels," Pettitte said. "I know how it was against the Phillies, but you'd like to see it some more, what a big-league hitter's going to do. I'd like to see how my ball's cutting in to some of these righties and stuff like that."
He's scheduled to start Friday against the Orioles and is supposed to throw about 60 pitches. "I may feel like I need to throw 80 or so; that'll be something I'm sure we'll talk about during that start," he said before adding: "If I get to pitch it."