Andy Pettitte (groin) nearing return

ARLINGTON, Texas -- If all goes according to plan, New York Yankees starter Andy Pettitte could return exactly two months after he first went on the disabled list with his injured groin.

Pettitte's pain-free minor league rehab outing at Double-A Trenton on Thursday was a step in the right direction, and the Yankees hope that one of their farm teams is still playing on Tuesday so Pettitte can pitch at a lower level before starting again for the Yankees.

If all goes well, Pettitte would then return to the majors on or around Sept. 19 when the Yankees host Tampa Bay. Pettitte has been on the disabled list since July 19.

The Yankees have not fully fleshed out what they will do with Pettitte if there are no minor league games Tuesday. The most likely scenario would be for him to pitch a simulated game.

"I would lean more toward a simulated game, but my mind could change," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The other option would be to bring Pettitte to the majors to start on Tuesday, which seems very unlikely.

Wherever Pettitte pitches next, the plan is to rev him up to five innings and 85 pitches. Ideally, Girardi would like him to reach that number before throwing in the majors so he could get up to near 100 pitches in his return to the big leagues.

In his minor league rehab start Thursday, Pettitte pitched well and, more importantly for him, didn't feel much, if any, pain in his groin. He threw 51 pitches, 37 of which were strikes. In all, he fired four shutout innings and felt very good afterward.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com.