NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte took another encouraging step in his return from a strained left groin, tossing an intensive bullpen session on Wednesday.
Pettitte threw about 30 warmup pitches, sat down for roughly five minutes and then proceeded to throw another 25 or so pitches. Pitching coach Dave Eiland described the side session as "about as high an intensity as you can in the bullpen."
"I felt good. I had no discomfort in there at all," Pettitte said. "It was a great day as far as I was concerned."
This is the third bullpen session Pettitte has thrown since he was sat down for a week following a mid-August setback. He threw Friday and Sunday in Chicago, saying the intensity of his Sunday bullpen session allowed him to make even more progress on Wednesday by sitting down in the middle of his session.
Pettitte said he was able to push hard off the mound on Wednesday, and he even reached the point where he could focus more on release point and his mechanics than simply the health of his legs. He did admit that he was still just a little tentative in his first group of warmup pitches, but he felt better once he sat down and started throwing again.
The next step for Pettitte will include an actual hitter in the batters' box, with the left-hander scheduled to throw a simulated game on Saturday morning.
"When you get a hitter in there, it's a little bit different. You know what you're trying to do," Pettitte said.
"We feel he's on the right path," Eiland said.
Of course, that depends on how Pettitte feels on Thursday. He said that he felt "tender" after his last bullpen session for a day, and he expects a little bit of usual soreness on Thursday before hopefully feeling good on Friday.
Pettitte did say that he would make a rehab start "for sure" before returning to the Yankees' rotation. That could come sometime next week, if Pettitte's simulated game goes well.
Depth comes in handy as Posada ejected
NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada had already been ejected in the Yankees' 4-3 win over Oakland by the time he charged back to home plate, dragging his bat in the dirt where he thought the called third strike had traveled.
That action made it clear to everyone watching from the three decks of Yankee Stadium on Wednesday just what Posada thought of crew chief Dana DeMuth's eighth-inning call, ringing up a third strike on a two-strike fastball that Posada believed to be outside.
Posada argued the call, quickly earning his sixth career ejection and first since Sept. 15, 2009, vs. Toronto, and third-base coach Rob Thomson dashed in to try and separate Posada from DeMuth. Posada made it to home plate, though, leaving a mark near the right-handed batters' box before manager Joe Girardi took up the argument.
"I just asked him why he threw him out," Girardi said. "He didn't like what Jorgie said, and sometimes you can say things that get you tossed. I've been there. He thought he gave Jorgie a chance to stay in the game, and it continued a little bit."
Posada had left Yankee Stadium by the time reporters were permitted in the clubhouse. But the expansion of rosters to 40 players Wednesday benefited the Yankees, who had used Posada to pinch-hit for catcher Francisco Cervelli in that at-bat.
The swelled bench meant that journeyman Chad Moeller was available to take over catching duties for the ninth inning. Had the ejection occurred without that help, Ramiro Pena might have been called upon to make his Major League catching debut as an emergency fill-in.
"I was really glad we had Moeller," Girardi said. "I would had to have been real creative in that situation."
Vazquez earns way back to Yanks' rotation
NEW YORK -- For the second time this season, Javier Vazquez's resurgence in relief work has earned him another turn in the rotation, as the right-hander will return to start Saturday against the Blue Jays.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced Wednesday that the team has decided to restore Vazquez into the starting mix, having used him for two solid appearances out of the bullpen. Dustin Moseley will be used in relief instead.
"We like the way Javy has been throwing the baseball," Girardi said. "We made some minor adjustments, and it seemed to really help him."
The Yankees were pleased with Vazquez's work on Monday, when he entered in the fifth inning to relieve Moseley and held the A's to a run on two hits, walking one and striking out six -- an effort that Vazquez hoped would create some tough decisions.
"I hope so -- I've always been a starter, and I would love to be in the rotation," Vazquez said then. "If they feel like I can help the team in the bullpen, that's fine with me. I just want to win a championship."
Vazquez's slight mechanical adjustment was suggested by pitching coach Dave Eiland, kicking his left leg back a little further in his windup, which may be helping the command and momentum of his offerings.
"His velocity has been consistent and his changeup has been good again," Girardi said. "I thought he had lost his changeup a little bit, and it's back again. That's an important pitch for him."
Yanks' roster expands with Berkman and Co.
NEW YORK -- With rosters expanding, the Yankees summoned three players from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday while also reinstating designated hitter Lance Berkman from the 15-day disabled list.
Promoted from the Bombers' top Minor League club were right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo, outfielder Greg Golson and catcher Chad Moeller.
Berkman was 2-for-8 with a run scored and a walk in two Minor League rehabilitation games for Double-A Trenton this week, making his way back from a sprained right ankle suffered in an Aug. 15 victory at Kansas City.
Berkman said that he considered the ankle "a non-issue as far as I'm concerned," but with Marcus Thames performing well in the DH role, Berkman anticipates he may miss a few at-bats.
"I'd imagine that I'd still be in there against the right-handed pitchers," Berkman said. "I don't think there would be any change, but if he wants to ride a hot hand here and there, that wouldn't surprise me."
Manager Joe Girardi said that he could see using Golson -- who hit .263 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs in 116 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is in his third stint with New York -- as a pinch-runner or extra outfielder.
Moeller is a third catcher behind Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli, but Albaladejo provides an intriguing bullpen option after posting 43 saves and a 1.42 ERA in 57 appearances at Triple-A, striking out at least one batter in 49 outings as an International League All-Star.
"I changed from a sinkerball to a four-seam fastball and started throwing more breaking balls," Albaladejo said. "That and a slider helped me out. The curveball is slow, so it made my fastball look a little harder. I think that was a key for me this year."
"We'll use him when we need him," Girardi said. "He's a guy that give you one-plus innings. We probably wouldn't ask him to do a whole lot more than that. We believe he's a guy that can help us."
In a corresponding roster move to create space for Moeller on the team's 40-man roster, left-hander Damaso Marte was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Girardi said the Yankees were not yet ready to activate rehabbing right-hander Alfredo Aceves, who will instead pitch Thursday at Double-A.
A-Rod takes BP, is practicing caution
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez's batting practice on Wednesday went well, although there is still no set schedule for his return.
"I'm taking a very precautionary approach," Rodriguez said. "We want to make sure we're as close to 100 percent as possible."
Rodriguez also did eight 40-yard dashes on Wednesday, repeating a workout he performed on Monday. He said he ran at about 50 to 60 percent and felt better on Wednesday than he did earlier in the week.
The third baseman isn't sure what the next step in his recovery from a strained left calf is. He said much of it depends on how he feels on Thursday. He has been out since Aug. 21 and is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday.
"I just have to make sure I keep healing. I don't want to get overconfident and try to push when I don't have to," Rodriguez said. "This is the most important stretch of our season coming up over the next two months, and if it takes a day or two, whatever it takes."
The Yankees' win on Tuesday clinched their 18th consecutive winning season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other teams have put together 18 or more straight winning seasons: the 1926-64 Yankees (39 seasons) and the 1968-85 Orioles (18 years). ... CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes are the first pair of Yankees teammates to win 16 games apiece before Sept. 1 since David Cone and David Wells pulled the trick in 1998. ... New York is 16-6 in its last 22 games against left-handed pitchers.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.