Pettitte 'not sure' about next start

Andy Pettitte struggled with his command through the first four innings before being pulled early. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Andy Pettitte said he is pretty sure the tightness in his left trapezius that caused him to leave Thursday's game with two out in the fifth inning was nothing more serious than a muscle spasm.

But Pettitte said he is not at all sure that he will be able to make his next start, scheduled for Tuesday against the Orioles in Baltimore.

"Obviously, I’m realistic," he said after taking the loss in the New York Yankees' 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Seattle Mariners. "I know how these guys are. I asked them if I could stay out there and try to get through it out there. So I’m hoping it's a spasm and it settles down. I can’t tell you I’ve had this before. I haven’t, so I don’t know, but I don’t feel like it’s tight right now. I feel like it’s loosened up and relaxed, so that's a good sign."

Pettitte left the game after striking out Kyle Seager for the second out of the fifth inning and the Mariners leading, 2-1. According to Joe Girardi, he noticed that Pettitte's velocity had dropped and that his arm speed was noticeably slower in the inning. Pettitte's cutter had clocked as high as 92 mph in the second inning but was down to around 87 mph in the fifth.

"He wanted to stay," Girardi said. "He said, 'I just got two outs (Pettitte fanned Jason Bay with a 77 mph slider to start the inning), let me try to get one more.' I said, 'No, because if you really hurt yourself you might be out for a long, long time as opposed to maybe missing a start.' It might not be anything."

Pettitte said he originally felt the pain in the fourth inning -- "It just completely locked up on me" -- and between innings went down to the clubhouse for a massage and heat treatment from trainer Steve Donohue, which provided temporary relief.

"But on my first pitch to Bay it just completely locked up again," Pettitte said. "It was just really tight. I couldn’t get extended at all. I really just felt like I was kinda cutting everything off, and just really trying to throw it in there, almost slower than slow to tell you the truth."

Pettitte said there were no tests scheduled and a lot would depend on how he felt Friday morning, and when it comes time for him to throw his between-starts bullpen session on Saturday. But he acknowledged that he was beginning to feel his age (he will turn 41 on June 15), and after missing nearly three months of last season after suffering a broken leg after being hit by a line drive, he has already missed a turn once this season with lower back pain.

"There's no doubt I'm getting old, but I don't want to sit here and tell you that that's the exact reason why," Pettitte said. "I guess anybody can jump to conclusions and say that, but then I look around the league and I see all kinds of people on the DL with all kinds of problems that are a lot younger than me, too. It's baseball and it's tough on the body, and it's an unnatural movement to throw that thing."

After pitching well in his last start, a win over the Royals in Kansas City, Pettitte was dissatisfied with his stuff even before he began experiencing the upper back pain. He allowed a run in the second inning on a walk, a single and an RBI double to Dustin Ackley, and barely escaped major damage in the fourth when he loaded the bases on a single and two walks, allowing one run on an infield hit by Brendan Ryan. Although he struck out five, Pettitte walked three batters in the first four innings, an inordinately high number for him.

"It’s been a battle, no doubt, it’s been a battle the past four starts," he said. "My command hasn’t been what I expected it to be, or what it’s been. I don’t know if something is causing that. But it is frustrating when you go out there and I’m not able to command the strike zone quite like I usually do."

With Ivan Nova still on the disabled list, now with an oblique injury, and Vidal Nuno ineligible to be recalled until next Thursday, the Yankees' only option if Pettitte can't go appears to be Adam Warren.

QUESTION: With the Yankees nine games over .500 and still atop the AL East by a game, do you think it is wise to skip Pettitte's next start, even if he says he feels good to go?