- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TAMPA, FLA. (AP) - Andy Pettitte pulled his cap down low, peered into the catcher and delivered each pitch with the intensity of a postseason game.

Clearly, this was no ordinary bullpen session.

Pettitte arrived at camp on Tuesday, took a physical and pulled on the familiar navy pinstripes. The lefty felt right at home with the New York Yankees.

“It’s weird to say it. I feel like I never left,” Pettitte said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

Pettitte ended his brief retirement last Friday, signing a minor league contract that would pay him $2.5 million if he’s added to the major league roster. He is three months shy of his 40th birthday, but he feels fine physically and hopes to help the Yankees win their 28th World Series championship.

Pettitte threw 50 pitches to catcher Russell Martin and was so encouraged that he joked he might be ready in three weeks, even though the target date for his return to the Bronx is May 1. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild and others want Pettitte to ease his way back after not pitching for 17 months.

“I really feel like I’m progressing. I really felt good about it,” Pettitte said. “I told Larry: `You’re going to have to make me take it slow.’”

Martin was quite impressed with Pettitte’s performance.

“That’s as good a bullpen as I’ve caught all spring,” Martin said. “As far as executing pitches, that’s as good as I’ve seen. He kept executing pitch after pitch after pitch.”

Martin said what stood out was Pettitte’s command and “how serious he is every pitch. It’s like a game out there.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants to see more.

“I don’t get too caught up in it,” Girardi said of Pettitte’s mound session. “You have to wait until guys get going. We’ll have to decide how many bullpens we feel he needs before throwing BP. The big thing is getting his body in shape.”

It’s possible Pettitte will pitch in an exhibition game before the Yankees head north. The plan is for him to stay in extended spring training and then join New York’s rotation perhaps by May.

“I am a little surprised I felt as good as I did today,” Pettitte said.

Pettitte was with the Yankees in camp this spring as an instructor. He threw batting practice several times, and continued throwing when he went home. He told Yankees general manager Brian Cashman the day he showed up on the first day of spring training that he was interested in coming back, and was thinking he’d be back in uniform sooner than this.

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