Rodriguez, Pettitte getting closer to return

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NEW YORK (AP) - Injured stars Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte are getting closer to rejoining the New York Yankees.

Pettitte threw 50 pitches in a simulated game Saturday morning at Yankee Stadium and said he had no problems with the strained left groin that’s kept him out since July 19.

“I didn’t feel anything,” Pettitte said. “It was great. A step in the right direction.”

One of the batters he faced was Rodriguez, sidelined with a strained left calf. The slugger said he’s close to being ready to play and will meet with Yankees staff to determine if he’ll come off the disabled list Sunday, the first day he’s eligible.

Pettitte plans to throw a bullpen session Monday and the next step for him could be a rehab start in a minor league playoff game next week. If all goes well, he could return to the rotation the following week during New York’s road trip to Tampa Bay and Baltimore.

“He looked great. I’m glad I don’t have to face him every day,” Rodriguez said.

Pettitte also took fielding practice from the stadium mound. New York manager Joe Girardi said if the left-hander can only go about 75 pitches in his first start back, that would be OK.

“I thought his location and his stuff was really good. Wasn’t favoring anything. His breaking ball was good, his changeup was good,” Girardi said. “We’re real happy.”

A-Rod wore spikes to test his leg on turns. He broke out of the box, albeit cautiously, and ran the bases.

“Felt good,” the third baseman said. “It was an encouraging day. There was no setbacks.”

Even without Pettitte and Rodriguez, the Yankees have the best record in baseball. They entered Saturday’s game against Toronto with a seven-game winning streak and a 1 1/2-game lead in the AL East over Tampa Bay.

“I think they’re both key components for us. We need ‘em both back,” Girardi said.

In other news, right fielder Nick Swisher was scratched from the lineup because of his stiff left knee. Swisher sat out the series opener Friday after leaving Thursday’s game against Oakland after one inning.

Swisher, who said he was available to pinch-hit, was listed in the original lineup. But when he tried running, he couldn’t go full speed.

Marcus Thames moved from designated hitter to right field, and Lance Berkman was inserted at DH.

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