Pettitte faces Yankees for first time
Astros lefty tosses four innings against old mates
TAMPA, Fla. -- Watching Andy Pettitte glare under the brim of his cap on the mound at Legends Field isn't an unusual sight. To see him do it in a Houston Astros uniform, however, was something a little different.
Pettitte started for the Astros on Sunday afternoon, taking on the Yankees for the first time in his career. He tossed four innings, limiting the Yankees to two runs, both on a monster two-run home run by Alex Rodriguez in the third inning.
"It was definitely strange, but it was a good day," said Pettitte. "I was able to come over and see some of the guys earlier, I threw my four innings and got out of there. I was happy with the results. A-Rod hits a homer off me every time I face him it seems like, so whatever. I felt good."
Before the game, Pettitte had a chance to catch up with several of his former teammates and coaches, seeing many of them for the first time since he signed with Houston in December 2003. He received a long ovation from the 10,227 on hand, many of whom witnessed the left-hander win some big games for the Yankees.
"It was great to be back," Pettitte said. "The fans were always great to me. It was a great experience here for nine years, but it was definitely strange coming back here and walking to [the visitor's] side."
"It was strange watching him pitch," said his former pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre. "But I enjoyed it."
Derek Jeter was the first batter Pettitte faced, the first time that the two former teammates had ever squared off against each other in a game. After falling behind, 0-2, Jeter worked a walk, prompting Pettitte to yell "Swing the bat!" at him as he strolled to first base.
"It's weird seeing him in a different uniform," Jeter said. "We played together, what, '92-2003? That's 11 years that we played together. We've been through a lot together."
Jeter later tripled against Pettitte in the third, setting up A-Rod's blast off the scoreboard in left-center. Jorge Posada also collected a base hit in his first matchup with Pettitte.
"Jeter, Posada, Tino [Martinez], all those guys, it was strange having to face them," Pettitte said. "What was good for me was just to get my focus, because when I'm going right, I'm just playing catch with the catcher."
"When you have friends on other teams, it's tough to face them," Posada said. "Andy was a special guy. He cared a lot about things we did here, and it was tough to see him go. It was really good to see him."
Pettitte won 149 games with the Yankees from 1995-2003, including a pair of 21-win seasons in 1996 and 2003. He made 30 postseason starts for the Yankees, several of them in critical situations, going 13-8 in October.
His performance in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, a 1-0 shutout win over the Braves, remains one of Joe Torre's favorite memories from his nine-plus years as manager of the Yankees.
"He was one of those guys who was there for all the big games. He seemed to always be the guy on the mound," Posada said. "For me, he understood winning. Coming up through this organization, he did a good job here. He made sure that you understood what the Yankees were all about, and he was a part of it."
Pettitte, who made just 15 starts last season because of elbow problems, had made only one official start this spring after injuring his ankle earlier this month. He pitched some simulated games, but had just three innings under his belt against big league competition.
"I thought he looked very smooth," said Torre. "I know for him not to pitch last year had to be total torture. It's weird, but I'm happy he's feeling better."
Though he could have stayed back in Kissimmee and thrown in a minor league game on Sunday, he opted to take the long ride to Tampa to take on his former team.
"I needed to get ready. I haven't had a whole lot of action," Pettitte said. "I knew there would be some distractions, but I was hoping I could come in and get some good work. I needed to face some big league hitters, so this was a good day for me."
The Yankees and Astros don't meet during the regular season, so Jeter and his teammates will have to wait until either the World Series or next spring to get another look at their old friend.
"When we're old and stuff and we come back for Old Timers Day, I'll probably face him again," said Jeter. "Any time you have somebody you play together with for a long time, you're always going to have a connection with them."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.