Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees grimaces after...

Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees grimaces after being hit by a ball hit by Scott Hairston #12 of the New York Mets. (June 10, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Time is running out and Joe Girardi knows it.

If Andy Pettitte is going to be an effective member of the Yankees' pitching staff down the stretch and possibly in the postseason, it's imperative for the 40-year-old to return relatively soon. Pettitte is taking baby steps in making his way back from the fractured fibula he suffered June 27 -- he has yet to pitch from a mound.

"Our hope is that we get him on a mound maybe sometime this weekend," Girardi said Wednesday. "We'll just have to see and whenever he does get on a mound, the process is probably going to have to be accelerated a little bit just because of the time frame."

Pettitte threw three sessions of 20 pitches from flat ground Tuesday, including 10 from his normal windup. Wednesday he said he felt good on the heels of getting that work in, but admitted he's not close to being ready to return.

"I'm a long ways from that," said Pettitte, who was 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in nine starts before the injury. "I haven't even got on a mound yet. Obviously, it's frustrating. I've kind of gotten over that whole point. Now, it's just trying to get to the point where I can get on the mound and start working to get back."

Until Pettitte throws from a mound, there's no way to gauge precisely where he's at physically. He thinks his arm stamina will be fine, and he's been riding the stationary bike to keep his legs in shape. But other than that, he hasn't been able to do too much. Therein lies the problem.

"I haven't ran or anything yet, so the plan is to try to get on the mound and continue to not have anything set me back, you know?" Pettitte said. "I think we have to be careful with how much I'm doing, just because docs have told me to watch the load.

"So when I get on the mound, that'll be real important to not beat myself up so bad to where I come in the next day and I'm taking a few days to recover. So it's kind of like day-to-day right now, trying to figure out what I can and can't do or what they want me to do."

Girardi said Pettitte could pitch in simulated games and he didn't discount the possibility of Pettitte working out the kinks during major-league games. In a sense, he'd be rehabbing in a pennant race, something that would be possible because the rosters expand Saturday. The Yankees would have enough arms in the bullpen to have other pitchers finish games started by Pettitte.

"If I had a couple of starts, that would be good," Pettitte said. "When I came back, I felt like the first start, I was kind of out of sorts. It was a little awkward out there to try to get back in the whole rhythm, and I think my second start, I felt like I had never left and was just pitching all year.

"I would say I would need a few starts."

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