Pettitte looks sharp in Trenton rehab start

Andy Pettitte threw four quick, workmanlike innings in a rehab outing on Thursday night for Trenton, working at what I'd guess to be about 90% effort, since he looked like he was playing catch and didn't max out his velocity.

His fastball was mostly 87-89, touching 90 once on my gun, with a cutter in the low 80s up to 85 and a mid- to upper-70s curveball, throwing all three pitches for strikes and going through the weak New Hampshire lineup as if the hitters were just cardboard cutouts.

He struck out four, walked none, and allowed just one air out; if you're looking for any negative, it's that he threw just 51 pitches, so he's still not fully stretched out to make a start in the major leagues, but there's plenty of time to get him back in the Bronx before October.

Pettitte isn't that great a prospect, as he's old for the level, but New Hampshire starter Zach Stewart was extremely impressive in his seven innings of work, striking out 10 (also against a weak lineup) with just one walk and ten groundouts against just one air out.

Stewart showed four pitches, pitching at 90-96 with sink and some tail with a tight, out-pitch slider at 83-87 that he threw for strikes, even back-dooring it to left-handed hitters for called strikes. His changeup was the biggest surprise, as another scout at the game told me he hadn't seen it this good before; it's mostly straight but has good separation from the fastball at 81-85 and his arm speed is excellent. He also used a fringy curveball with good depth, but he didn't command the pitch as well as he did the slider.

Stewart worked aggressively with everything and had good tempo. He stays over the rubber before driving forward with a long stride, although his arm action is a little long in the back and he pronates relatively late in the delivery. I know several scouts see Stewart as a sinker/slider pen guy, but I see four pitches, a good frame, and a pitcher who likes to attack hitters, and I see a potential No. 2 starter, maybe a No. 3 if the changeup isn't always where it was tonight.

When Pettitte left the game, he was relieved by Adam Warren, who ended up throwing six innings of relief as the game was scoreless for next to forever, and struck out ten more of the hapless Fisher Cat hitters. Warren, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina in 2009, has a fastball and is not afraid to use it, touching 95, working mostly 91-94, running as low as 89, but throwing the thing through pinholes, up, down, to both sides of the plate, and using it as his two-strike pitch, especially going for the inside corner to hitters from either side of the plate in those counts.

He doesn't have an average second pitch -- his slider has good tilt, but it wasn't sharp enough to call it average, and he barely used his mid-70s curveball without showing a changeup -- so while he has the velocity and fastball command to start, I'm not sure that's his future without an improved slider. He keeps himself online through his delivery and gets on top of the ball from a 3/4 slot, repeating everything from pitch to pitch, all signs are that the command he had tonight is legitimate, and at worst he should be a valuable trade commodity for the Yankees this winter.

Austin Romine's troubles catching appear to be season-long – he can throw, but his hands are just not soft enough for him to catch, and he struggled with above-average velocity for the second night in a row. With J.R. Murphy and especially Gary Sanchez storming up behind him, I think Romine is going to get squeezed out of that “catcher of the future” bucket in a hurry. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria got to show off his hands in the field, making a lightning-quick transfer to start a 6-4-3 double play, but I noticed that he almost never makes a true overhand throw, going to first sidearm or even below it, and thus putting action on his throws that shouldn't be there. It's nothing the Blue Jays can't coach out of a kid, but it's a peculiar habit for a guy whose primary baseball skill right now is his defense.