Alex Rodriguez to face Andy Pettitte

NEW YORK -- The most important simulated game in the recent history of the New York Yankees will take place Saturday at Yankee Stadium when Alex Rodriguez, on the disabled list for the past 13 days with a strained left calf, faces Andy Pettitte, out for the past two months with a strained left groin, in a confrontation that may determine the immediate future of both.

"Tomorrow is a big test," Rodriguez said before Friday's Yankees-Blue Jays game. "Gonna face Pettitte heads-up, metal cleats on, and get a better idea of where I am."

The simulated game, in which Pettitte will throw to a small selection of Yankees with a coach calling balls and strikes and determining hits and outs, is likely to take place before Saturday's 1:05 p.m. game. Rodriguez said in addition to hitting, he will run the bases, concentrating on going from first to third and from second to home.

"I'm definitely going to push much harder [Saturday]," he said. "We're gonna go out at it full motion, just like in a ballgame, with cleats on and trying to go full out of the box."

Pettitte did not speak to reporters before the game but according to Joe Girardi, his recovery is proceeding according to plan after several early setbacks. Pettitte threw 55 pitches in the bullpen Wednesday. The simulated game is the next step in a progression that is expected to include at least one rehabilitation start.

For the second day in a row, Rodriguez took live batting practice on the field, took ground balls at third base, and ran from the batter's box to first base. And for the second straight day, he stopped short of declaring himself ready to return Sunday, when he is eligible to come off the DL.

"Today was a good day, but I'm gonna wait and see," he said. "I don't want to over-promise and under-deliver. I'd much rather go the other way on that. But Sunday is a possibility, definitely."

Rodriguez said he no longer felt pain in the calf, which he strained coming out of the batters' box in the second inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 20. But he also said he hasn't really pushed it hard enough to know if the injury is completely healed.

"I've healed quite nicely with this injury," he said. "But I think at this point of the year you have to be very conservative. Obviously the goal here is the big picture. I just want to make sure I'm back to 100 percent. I'm hoping Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, one of those days I'd definitely like to be ready."

In his pre-Yankees career, Rodriguez faced Pettitte 42 times, with nine hits, for a .214 batting average. But five of those hits were home runs.

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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