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TOR@NYY: Pettitte throws five scoreless in return

His legs were good but not great.

That was the diagnosis Andy Pettitte ascribed to his recovered left ankle on Thursday after making his first start since returning from a three-month stint on the disabled list on Wednesday. While the left-hander was only allowed to throw 75 pitches, his velocity, command and composure were vintage Pettitte. He worked five scoreless innings in New York's 4-2 win over the Blue Jays despite lingering fatigue in his legs.

"My arm feels great and my break area feels great," Pettitte said. "I'm 100 percent and just real happy with how my arm is feeling. More than anything, it's my legs. I just have to get my legs back in shape."

Pettitte will start the Yankees' series opener in Minnesota on Monday, a day after Oakland ended New York's seven-game win streak, keeping them just a game ahead of the Orioles in the AL East. But despite a small lead in the division, the Yankees seem to have gotten a lift from Pettitte's return, bringing a newfound energy in the clubhouse much like when the 40-year-old first came out of retirement to join the club in May.

"He just turns up the energy level," catcher Russell Martin said. "I feel like everyone kind of feeds off his intensity level when he's out there. He's a gamer. Whether it's Spring Training or the World Series, he wants the ball, and I think everybody else on the team wants him to have the ball too."

"You're talking about almost like a living legend when you're talking about Andy Pettitte in New York," Nick Swisher said. "To have him back really solidifies our starting rotation."

Like his players, Yankees manager Joe Girardi realizes the importance of Pettitte's return to the rotation, and he refuses to risk any kind of setback. After he pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning on Wednesday, Pettitte lobbied Girardi to let him stay in the game, telling his manager that he was fine to continue pitching. Girardi wouldn't have it. He lifted Pettitte to assure he wouldn't aggravate his leg in his first game back.

Since his last start, the lefty has worked on building up his legs so he has no issue working deep into games. If all goes well through the first few innings of Monday's game, Pettitte's pitch count will be increased to 85-90 pitches, and Girardi could allow him to pitch longer.

"I'm going to give them what I can," Pettitte said on Sunday. "My last game I took as a normal game, and I'd give them as long as I can. I'll do the same tomorrow. I can't think about the pitch count. I'm going to give what I can, and when it's over, it's over."

The Twins open the series with New York as owners of the second worst record in the American League. With just nine games remaining on their schedule and 10 remaining on the Yankees', they'll be poised to spoil New York's run at a division title.

Minnesota already played the role of spoiler for the Tigers on Sunday when the Twins took both games of a doubleheader.

Twins: Hendriks to start on Monday, Vasquez on Tuesday
A doubleheader on Sunday in Detroit initially left Twins manager Ron Gardenhire questioning who would start on what day of the three-game set against the Yankees, but Sunday he announced Liam Hendriks will get the ball on Monday and Esmerling Vasquez will pitch on Tuesday. Wednesday's starter will likely have to work on short rest.

Hendriks is 1-7 with a 5.88 ERA in 14 starts this season, but Monday will be the 23-year-old's first career start against New York. With two games on Sunday, including an extra-inning affair, Gardenhire and the Twins will need Hendriks to work deep into the game to preserve an already thin bullpen, but the righty has only made it into the sixth inning four times this season.

Yankees: Ichiro moves up to the two-hole
After a five-game stretch where Ichiro Suzuki went 14-for-20 with seven runs, five RBIs, three doubles, two home runs and five stolen bases, Girardi moved the outfielder from the bottom third of the lineup to second in the Yankees' batting order for the second game in a row on Sunday. Suzuki responded by going 1-for-5 with a stolen base -- his 27th of the season -- in New York's 5-4 loss to Oakland.

Ichiro is now batting .331 in 57 games since joining the Yankees on July 24. His average sits at .283, the highest mark since May 22, when he was still with Seattle.

Worth noting
• After starting the season 0-7, Hendriks picked up his first win of the season on Sept. 19 in his last start. He allowed just two earned runs and two hits in six innings against the Indians.

• The Yankees have made the postseason each of the last 15 times they started the calendar month of September in first place. Comments