Pettitte talks struggles in return to Yankees

Andy Pettitte.

There was no doubt that Andy Pettitte appreciated the moment of stepping onto the Yankee Stadium mound and hearing the standing ovations he received from the fans.

What he didn’t like were the mistakes he made during his return from a year-plus retirement. After allowing four runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings during Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the Mariners his voice tinged with regret about the outcome.

“I appreciate the fans,” Pettitte said. “They have been absolutely great to me. I just want to go out there and do my job and help this team. I appreciate it so much. I sometimes feel like you don’t give them what they want.”

Nobody in the crowd wanted to see him give up a pair of two-run home runs to Justin Smoak and Caspter Wells respectively.

The two-run shot by Smoak in the fourth was his first hit allowed after being a groundball machine in the first three innings.

“I was throwing the ball around the plate and I tried to throw one in the zone there,” Pettitte said. “That’s a bad idea, especially to Smoak right there because that’s kind of his nitro zone. It was just a horrible pitch.”

The pitch to Wells also was a cutter that did not run away from the right side of the plate. Wells dinged it off the right-field foul pole, quieting a crowd that had done nothing but shower Pettitte with adoration.

“I just got careless to Wells,” Pettitte said. “I got real aggressive on the outside corner and I thought I could strike him out looking right there and he ran into it. I got a ball that was up and I can’t say that I was trying to go paint down and away. I thought that I might freeze him right there with a fastball that probably came back to the plate probably just a little too much.”

It was the sixth that Pettitte seemed to be the most regretful about. He attempted to get through it with fastballs in the high 80s, but the Mariners jumped on those pitches for five hits and had the bases loaded before Pettitte escaped with a double play started by Mark Teixeira.

“It was all there,” Pettitte said. “Other than my cutter, I was throwing my cutter down in and I couldn’t get guys to swing over it as far as the righties. But I still had a curveball; I still had a changeup you can go to.

“Actually Russell [Martin] wanted to go to them a few times and I shook him off. I don’t know why, but I wished I would have pitched a little bit differently in that inning.”

While Pettitte was disappointed in the way it unfolded, not everyone on the team felt the same way.

“He looked like he hasn’t missed a beat,” manager Joe Girardi said.  “It wasn’t like he had to re-invent himself because he wasn’t coming back from an injury. It just felt normal to see him there.”

It also felt normal to see Pettitte sound disappointed after a loss. It is what he has done throughout his 16-year career.

But as he continues to go on with this comeback, gets back to pitching on normal rest, he feels that he will get stronger and perhaps the next time the right-handed hitters will see properly located four-seam fastballs and cut fastballs that can generate the desired swings and misses.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Pettitte said. “It was exactly what I thought it was going to be.”

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


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