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09/09/10 11:00 PM ET

Pettitte pleased with rehab start at Trenton

Yankees left-hander takes another step toward his return

TRENTON, N.J. -- Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte was pleased with his rehabilitation start with the Double-A Trenton Thunder on Thursday night.

Pettitte, sidelined since July 18 by what was diagnosed as a "small, persistent tear" of his left groin, felt his four-inning, 51-pitch effort for Trenton in an Eastern League Divisional Series with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats before 8,072 fans at Mercer County Waterfront Park was "a step in the right direction."

"It felt good just to get to a game, with the intensity of it," said Pettitte, who threw 37 strikes and allowed just two hits with four strikeouts.

Pettitte threw 14 additional pitches in the bullpen to reach the planned total of 65. He did throw a pair of wild pitches.

Pettitte pitched in the same sequences used with Major League hitters, and appeared strongest in his fourth and final inning.

"The first inning, I felt I was a little short," Pettitte said. "I got more and more comfortable. By the fourth inning, I was putting all I had into it. I feel fine now, but I know I'll feel sore [Friday] -- I did after the simulated game. It's just something I'll have to deal with.

"What was great for me was just to go out there and work, because I really have had no work," he added. "When you're on the disabled list and not contributing, it's not a great feeling. The guys [his Yankees teammates] have been great to me, but I want to get back as soon as possible so I can help our team."

How soon he returns remains an open question. Pettitte's road back been filled with setbacks and frustration. He feels both his stamina and his changeup are not where they need to be. One of the wild pitches came on a changeup Pettitte said he "pulled."

"Since I kept having setbacks with this thing, I haven't done hardly anything in my workout regimen with my legs," Pettitte said. "I know my stamina is nowhere where it needs to be. If I started for the Yankees next week, maybe I could give four or five good innings.

"With my changeup, that's always been the hardest pitch for me after I haven't worked. I'll need both that and my stamina against Major League hitters."

At 38, the veteran is finding that coming back from an injury is not as easy as it once was.

"I really had to change my mind-set," the lefty said. "I'd do something that would make this thing worse, and whatever timetable I had just didn't happen. I got used to being out, and that's not good."

Pettitte credited Trenton catcher Austin Romine with helping him out in facing one of the most potent attacks in the Eastern League.

"I worked with Austin a lot in Spring Training, and he was familiar with what I throw," Pettitte said. "[Romine] said Trenton has played New Hampshire a ton, and he knew what these guys like and what they don't like."

Pettitte planned to fly back to Texas on Thursday night and meet the Yankees in Arlington.

"I'll get with [Yankees pitching coach] Dave Eiland and [manager] Joe Girardi and see what we want to do next," Pettitte said. "They might want me to make another [rehabilitation] start. I need to pitch Tuesday, and we don't have a [playoff] schedule yet."

With three of the Yankees' farm teams in their respective playoffs, Class A advanced Tampa is the most likely destination to play on Tuesday.

Jed Weisberger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.