Mixed results as Pettitte returns to hill

Mixed results as Pettitte returns to hill

TAMPA, Fla. -- Andy Pettitte's pitch sailed up and in past David Ortiz's armpit, stumbling the big Boston slugger and drawing boos from visiting members of Red Sox Nation -- most of whom had traded Fenway crimson for St. Patrick's Day green.

The first salvo of the Yankees' 2008 rivalry against their neighbors to the north, this was not. But it also wasn't necessarily a rust byproduct for Pettitte, who pitched for the first time in 10 days on Monday after missing his last start due to a mild forearm injury.

"He's a great hitter. There's no doubt I backed him off," Pettitte said. "You can't just lay it over the plate for him to hit it. You've got to move the ball in and out and hopefully make the hitter uncomfortable in the batter's box."

Returning to mound action for his third start of the spring, Pettitte at least got to dive back in with familiar company, testing himself for more than three innings with the Red Sox.

Though he felt less sharp than when he was forced off of the Yankees' trip last Wednesday with left forearm tightness -- perhaps a good thing, since that day saw an on-field incident with the Rays -- Pettitte accepted Monday's 65-pitch performance as a positive sign for when the games really count.

After retiring six of the first seven Boston batters around a walk, Pettitte tired a little bit in the third, allowing two runs and throwing one attention-grabbing pitch right around Big Papi's midsection. Kevin Youkilis touched Pettitte for a solo home run in the fourth, one batter before Mike Lowell tagged the lefty's final pitch of the afternoon to the warning track in left field.

"Really, I was just pitching," said Pettitte, who walked two and struck out three, also throwing a run-scoring wild pitch. "Sometimes you go out there and you don't feel great, but the layoff would be no excuse because of the first inning I had.

"I just think I was rushing a little bit and got out of sync. All in all, it was a good day for me."

It was definitely a lively day for Yankees batters, who made the afternoon a quick one for Boston righty Bartolo Colon, still trying to catch up after a late start to his camp.

Colon faced eight batters and couldn't escape the first inning, hurt by a two-run ground-rule double by Hideki Matsui and a two-run single by Robinson Cano. That brought Sox manager Terry Francona -- clad in his trademark pullover jacket, even in Spring Training -- ambling to the mound and removing Colon with a half-hug.

Spring Training
News and features:
• Hoch on Pettitte's health  400K
• Va. Tech galleries: Pregame | Game action
• Yankees visit Va. Tech  400K
• Billy Crystal's at-bat  400K
• Yanks-Rays incident  400K
Spring Training info:
MLB.com coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

With a crowd of 11,306 on hand at Legends Field vocally supporting both sides, but clearly swayed toward the home team, it wasn't exactly Yankee Stadium in October. As far as Grapefruit League games go, though, the energy was noticeable.

"Obviously there's a little bit more in the stands, and that might spark the players a little bit," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I've liked the effort every day. It's been really consistent."

This Yanks-Sox matchup even brought something of a scare, good practice for Girardi when he manages his first regular-season games against Boston in early April. Boston reliever Julian Tavarez plunked Derek Jeter with a fastball in the second inning, drawing the manager and medical staff out of the dugout as Jeter gingerly walked down the first-base line.

Jeter's penchant for diving out over the plate leads to more than his share of hit-by-pitches -- in Jeter's first at-bat of 2008, a University of South Florida pitcher found a way to drill the Yankees captain -- but in the case of Tavarez's wild offering, there was little wiggle room for Jeter to find.

"[Jeter] pretty much kicked us off the field," Girardi said later. "You can usually tell by a guy's grimace. There's no way that didn't hurt, but he's as tough as they come."

The Yankees will spend Tuesday boarding an early-morning charter flight to play a benefit exhibition at Virginia Tech University, but they'll have little sympathy from the Red Sox, who are just days away from a trans-continental flight to meet the A's in Japan.

Frequent flyer miles aside, the Yankees are fairly cognizant of the manner in which Boston and New York are being stacked in preseason publications. Until someone knocks off the defending World Series champions, the Red Sox remain the team to beat in the American League East, which presents quite the challenging objective for the Yankees.

Monday's start gave Pettitte confidence that he'll indeed be able to reach the neighborhood of 100 pitches in his first start against the Blue Jays.

With his veteran presence in the No. 2 rotation slot, Pettitte said, there were indeed reasons to see the Red Sox off with optimism as they rolled back down the Florida coast, on their way to a season of their own. Pettitte insists he will be ready, with a little help from his friends.

"I feel good about it," Pettitte said. "[Chien-Ming] Wang is going to give us a lot of quality starts atop our rotation, and the young guys are going to have to pitch for us, no doubt. If I'm healthy, you know what you're going to get out of me.

"Those guys have worked hard and their bodies are ready right now. They're getting mentally prepared and I think they're going to do good."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.