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08/31/12 11:02 PM ET

Pettitte optimistic after throwing bullpen session

NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte's margin for error is shrinking, but so are the odds that he won't be able to make a return by the end of the season. Pettitte, who has missed two months while recovering from a fractured left ankle, made a huge step forward by throwing a bullpen session Friday.

Pettitte said that it wasn't a "hard" bullpen and that he didn't fully exert himself, but the fact that he was able to get on the mound and throw 20 pitches was a huge relief. Pettitte hasn't pitched in a game since June 27, but he said that Friday's bullpen session gives him confidence going forward.

"It was huge," said Pettitte. "I'm sure that you guys talking to me could tell that I was getting a little paranoid about how this thing's going to feel. Today was good. I didn't get out there and push off as hard as I could and let it fly, but I was just introducing myself back to the mound. I felt really comfortable, so that was a good thing. And my arm felt just free and easy. That was another good thing."

Pettitte, who ended his retirement before this season to have a shot at another World Series ring with the Yankees, went 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in his first nine starts. The veteran took a batted ball off his ankle in a June 27 start, an impact that broke his ankle and mandated a six-week recovery.

Pettitte said that he tried to throw each of his pitches while on the mound Friday, and he also said that he'd discuss his performance and how he feels with the team's training staff. They'll make a plan for his prognosis after that, and Pettitte hopes to take two weeks to work back to peak condition.

The left-hander had a setback in his recovery in July, and that development caused him to fear whether he'd be able to make it back on time. Pettitte has worked closely in consultation with the Yankees' training staff, and he said a conservative schedule has helped him to recover just in time.

"If you look at the calendar, you'd try to get two starts before the playoffs," he said. "I don't want to do anything stupid over the next four or five days. There's no doubt about it. If I go backwards, there's no way I can get ready. When I said that, it was true. That's still there. Until Doc tells me, 'You're completely out of the woods and you can just go at it,' I'll continue to try to be as cautious as I can."

The news of Pettitte's bullpen session was a great bulletin for Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who also told reporters that Ivan Nova threw his first long-toss session on Friday. Girardi said that the Yankees would love to have Pettitte back in time for the playoffs, health and fitness permitting.

"That means his leg is obviously feeling a lot better for him to do what he did today, and that's what we needed to see," Girardi said. "We have plenty of people watching him when he's doing his bullpens and making sure that he's all right. But really the only way you're going to know is if you go out there and throw. I don't see Andy trying to do too much. He knows what he has to do to get ready."

A-Rod plays in first rehab game at Class A

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez stepped back into the batter's box on Friday night, but he did so a long way from home. Rodriguez, the Yankees' injured third baseman, headlined a trio of New York veterans that were in action in Minor League rehab assignments around the country.

Rodriguez, working his way back from a broken bone in his left hand, has been out of action since July 25. He served as the designated hitter for Class A Tampa in a 7-6 loss to Lakeland, and Rodriguez went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in his return to competitive action.

The Yankees would love to see the veteran thrive and come back before the end of the regular season, and manager Joe Girardi said his presence could have a huge impact on his team.

"You hope a lot," said Girardi. "You hope he comes back swinging it like he did before he got hurt. That's the idea. This is a guy that's supposed to be an impact player for us."

Rodriguez wasn't alone on Friday night. David Aardsma, who had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last July, made an appearance Friday. Aardsma pitched a scoreless inning for Tampa, walking one batter without allowing any hits.

Another reliever -- Pedro Feliciano -- had a rehab assignment on Friday night. Feliciano, who had shoulder surgery in September, gave up one hit in an inning for the Yankees' short-season affiliate in Staten Island. That one hit was a home run by Alexander Sanchez of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Yanks move up Phelps, Hughes to face Orioles

NEW YORK -- The Yankees are playing a hunch. On Friday, manager Joe Girardi shuffled the team's pitching staff for the next few days, shifting veteran Freddy Garcia out of the Baltimore series.

Garcia, originally scheduled to pitch on Saturday, will now pitch Tuesday against Tampa Bay. The Yankees will go with David Phelps on Saturday and Phil Hughes in Sunday's finale against the Orioles, and Girardi announced those moves but didn't really go too far to explain them.

"We like the way Phelpsie and Hughesie have been throwing, so we're going to start them," he said. "It's not just one little thing. It's things we looked at, and we decided to go that way."

One factor may have been the way Hughes has been pitching at Yankee Stadium. Hughes, who last pitched Tuesday in a 2-1 win over Toronto, has gone 10-3 with a 3.25 ERA at home this season. Garcia, by contrast, has gone 4-3 with a 5.36 mark at home, but Girardi wouldn't elaborate on the matter.

"There's not one exact reason," he said. "We just decided we'd do it this way."

Phelps has made 19 of his 25 appearances as a reliever this season, but he's made three straight starts for New York's injury-ravaged rotation. The right-hander has completed five innings in each of those last three outings, and he's given up three earned runs or fewer in two of them.

Yanks hope to have Teixeira back in Baltimore

NEW YORK -- The Yankees won't have Mark Teixeira for the next few days, but they're confident that he'll be back in the mix before too long. Teixeira has missed two straight games due to a strained left calf, and manager Joe Girardi doesn't expect him back until next weekend's series in Baltimore.

"He feels better. I can tell you that," said Girardi. "So what has it been? Four days? We'll just take it day by day. That's all we can do. We don't have him doing anything but treatment today."

Teixeira, one of the most durable players in baseball, has played in at least 156 games in four straight seasons. The first baseman missed five games with a lingering wrist ailment earlier in the season, and Girardi thinks a little rest will help heal his calf and get him back in the everyday lineup.

The veteran is second on the team in home runs (23) and first in RBIs (81), and Girardi knows that Teixeira is one of the most important cogs in his lineup. Right now, the plan is to rest Teixeira this series and the next one before returning next week in Baltimore.

"Even if we were on grass, I don't think he'd be ready anyway. But the turf is probably not the best thing for him," said Girardi of Teixeira playing in the Tampa Bay series. "I really believe that if we were going the other way -- if we were going to Baltimore first -- I don't think he'd be available to us."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.