04/30/12 5:03 PM ET
Pettitte declares himself 'ready to help' Yankees
After 96-pitch start in Clearwater, lefty eager to join big league club
By Chris Girandola / Special to MLB.com
"I feel I'm strong enough and ready to make my next start with [the Yankees]," said Pettitte, who allowed six runs (five earned) over six abbreviated innings in Clearwater. "I feel good and it was another solid day. I felt the quality of pitches were as good as I've had in any of my starts up to now, and I was able to hold my velocity throughout [the outing]. I feel like I'm ready to help the team."
Pettitte had been scheduled to make the sixth outing in his celebrated return with a start for Double-A Trenton against the Portland Sea Dogs in Portland, Maine, but the Yankees' brass alternated those plans after the forecast called for temperatures in the 40s.
Instead, Pettitte pitched in ideal conditions in Florida on a sunny day, with temperatures in the 80s and low humidity. The only weather "issue" he had to contend with was the steady breeze that ultimately played a role in a three-run home run by Trey Ford.
Pettitte surrendered 10 hits, struck out eight and walked none.
"The first three innings, I had a tough time locating my fastball in," said Pettitte, who tossed 71 strikes. "After that, my location was good with all of my pitches and I was able to really work on a lot of things. I am comfortable with all my pitches and my command. Everything feels good."
Pettitte said he was more aggressive facing the Minor League players than he would be on the Major League level. On one particular occasion, with two men on base and with two outs in the fourth inning, Pettitte tossed a changeup in the strike zone on a full count to Ford, who sent a towering fly ball to center that benefited from the wind and narrowly cleared the fence.
"He had swung over top of the pitch in his previous at-bat [for a strikeout] and that's just something I have to be able to do [in the Majors]," Pettitte said. "If I'm going to throw that pitch in that situation, I have to throw it out of the strike zone. Down here [in extended spring training], I get too aggressive, and he made a good swing on it, too. But it's good, because I know where I am with my pitches and what I have to do to be successful."
Pettitte had his fastball clocked between 86-88 mph, including in the sixth inning, in which he had two strikeouts and tossed 13 pitches, 10 for strikes.
"I wasn't able to do that the last time out in Trenton, and I felt strong enough to throw it hard throughout my entire outing here," said Pettitte, who threw 81 pitches on Wednesday. "Each time out, I keep getting better and better."
Pettitte said he would like to have his next start be with the Major League club, but he understands if the Yankees management wants him to start on the Minor League level again. Either way, he is ready to help.
"I'm excited, and I'm ready to get up there and do whatever I can to help," said Pettitte, who has made 479 regular-season starts and amassed a 240-130 mark over his 16-year career with the Yankees and Houston Astros. "I know Joe [Girardi] isn't expecting me to toss 110 pitches every time out, but he wants me to be healthy and ready to go once I'm there. I'm under no pressure, because those guys have a great ballclub. I just want to be right and strong to contribute once I'm there."
Yankees vice president of player personnel Billy Connors was in attendance, and he said he liked what he saw from Pettitte.
"He looked comfortable with all his pitches, and he looked to be ready to contribute," Connors said. "If it was up to [Pettitte], he'd pitch with [the Yankees] the next time he throws. It's all a matter of what they say in New York."
The mentioned goal had been mid-May, but Pettitte may just alter those plans.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.