Andy Pettitte to start Sunday

NEW YORK -- After retiring and being away from the major leagues for more than a year, Andy Pettitte will make his return to the New York Yankees on Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, the team announced.

"I'm excited," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think it will be a great day at the stadium."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman nor Girardi would say whose spot in the rotation Pettitte will take. Rookie David Phelps, who will make his second career start in the majors on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays, is the most likely candidate. Phelps is 0-1 with a 3.74 ERA. Phil Hughes, who is 2-4 with a 6.67, is another possibility.

In four games in the minor leagues, Pettitte was 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA.

"The reports I've gotten have been pretty good," Girardi said.

After consulting with Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and his evaluators, Cashman felt Pettitte was ready to go. Girardi and Rothschild decided Sunday would be the best day to slot Pettitte in.

"We feel that he's physically ready," Girardi said. "He feels he's physically ready."

Girardi said the bullpen would be better set up with Pettitte going Sunday. Pettitte will follow Hiroki Kuroda on Friday and Hughes on Saturday against Seattle.

By Sunday, Phelps could be rested enough to resume as the team's long reliever. It will depend on how many pitches he throws in Wednesday's start. If he throws well enough, Phelps could cause the Yankees to change their minds on if he is the odd man out.

Pettitte, 39, will train near his home in Westchester, N.Y., in anticipation for his start. He threw at his home in Houston the other day, Cashman said. Cashman said that Pettitte could throw his bullpens at Yankee Stadium, but can't be with the team during games.

"He is a jack of all trades," Cashman added. "He knows exactly what he needs in order to get it done. That's not an issue."

When the Yankees signed Pettitte in the middle of March, it appeared he was the team's seventh legitimate starter. However, the Yankees' starting pitching has performed below expectations while dealing with injuries. Michael Pineda, the main prize of the Jesus Montero winter blockbuster trade, is out for the season after shoulder surgery.

"We are looking forward to adding another healthy arm to the mix," Cashman said. "Because, yes, our depth has been challenged and some of our healthy starters have been inconsistent."

Pettitte, who will turn 40 in a month, came out of retirement in mid-March. The Yankees signed Pettitte to a $2.5 million deal. He last started a major league game on Oct. 18, 2010. He went seven innings in a Game 3 loss to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS. Texas starter Cliff Lee outpitched Pettitte in the Rangers' 8-0 win over the Yankees. Pettitte threw seven innings of two-run ball.

In 2010, he went 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA. He made the All-Star team, but missed much of the second half due to injuries.

"I think all of us expect to see Andy Pettitte," Girardi said. "I think you can only go back to what you've seen. ... Will I be right? I hope so."

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Kieran Darcy contributed to this report.