CHICAGO -- The most significant pitches tossed by a Yankee on Friday may have occurred several hours before game time at U.S. Cellular Field.
They happened out in the visitors' bullpen, where left-hander Andy Pettitte threw 25 pitches off a full-mound at approximately 75 percent in what he and manager Joe Girardi deemed a step in the right direction in his recovery from a strained left groin.
Pettitte had not thrown in 10 days after an MRI revealed a small persistent strain in his groin. A bullpen session without discomfort, then, even if not at full strength, is a mark of progress for the veteran.
"It was good," Pettitte said. "I didn't push off as hard as I could. I didn't have any discomfort at all, so to me that's a positive."
Girardi said that Pettitte did not feel "that tug in his groin." The next step for the southpaw should be another, harder bullpen session, perhaps as early as Sunday.
"You really have to look at his next bullpen, see how hard he's able to throw, see how he pitches," Girardi said. "Does he need another bullpen? Is a simulated game the next step? It's wait-and-see."
Girardi said that he wants Pettitte to face hitters at least twice before he returns to the Yankees' rotation. That could include a pair of rehab assignments, or a simulated game and a rehab. Time for rehab appearances, however, is running short as the Minor League season comes to an end.
"You're anxious just sitting around the bullpen. It's getting close to the end of the season. I realize where we're at, but there's still time," Pettitte said.
Pettitte's injury, suffered back on July 18 in a start against the Rays, was supposed to keep him out of action for only five weeks. Pettitte was even ahead of that schedule briefly, but he admitted he may have pushed himself too far, leading to his setback.
This time around, he's eschewing weightlifting and running, focusing all his energies on getting back into pitching shape.
"I feel like it's all healed up, and now it's a matter of getting the strength back," Pettitte said. "And the only way to do that is to throw and throw to hitters."
Pettitte acknowledged that the big test will come with an opponent in the batter's box against him. Girardi said he would like Pettitte to make as many starts as possible before the postseason, but said, "we'll take what we can get."
"He's better than he was 10 days ago, and we've just got to keep moving in the right direction," Girardi said. "Today was a good day."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.