Pettitte throws first curves off mound since surgery

Updated: February 19, 2005, 4:23 PM ET
Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The first day of spring workouts for Houston Astros pitcher Andy Pettitte was more of a test than a practice session.

Andy Pettitte

Catcher Brad Ausmus wondered if the veteran pitcher's delivery had been affected by his surgically repaired left elbow.

During the Astros first spring workout for pitchers and catchers, Pettitte showed the same solid delivery he had before his elbow problems began in April. For the first time since Aug. 12, Pettitte threw curveballs and fastballs off a mound on Friday.

"Pettitte looked good," Ausmus said. "A lot of times when guys have surgery, they alter their motion when they come back, but he didn't. That tells you he's fine."

Pettitte has worked to recover from the injury since surgery on Aug. 24 to repair a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. He threw 23 pitches in a bullpen session and reaffirmed his vow to return in time for the start of the season.

"This is the first time I flipped some (curveballs) off the mound," Pettitte said. "That and a few cutters. I've been spinning curves and cutters for a while now, so I wanted to go out there and spin some today. I felt good."

He is behind where he normally is, considering he was ready to throw between 60 and 70 pitches in the first spring bullpen session in each of his previous 10 seasons.

"I'm going to have to build up my mound strength, my arm strength and everything," he said. "As much and as long as I've been long-tossing, I thought I would feel like I could throw 70-80 pitches right now from the get-go. That's not the case."

He denied a report that said he wouldn't be ready to start until a month into the season.

"Like I told you, my arm will dictate when I'm going to be ready," he said. "Through it all I've felt like I'm going to be ready for opening day. And I still feel that way. I'm just hoping my arm will cooperate and I'll feel great."

There is no reason to believe Pettitte won't start playing on time, manager Phil Garner and trainer Dave Labossiere said.

Pettitte was 6-4 with 15 starts and a 3.90 ERA last season.

Roger Clemens said things were going well after the first workout. "It feels good," he said. "My mechanics feel fairly sharp, so I don't think I'm too far behind. I don't think I'll have to play a whole lot of catch-up. I think I'm pretty close." . ...The Astros signed left-handed pitcher Mark McLemore, outfielder Willy Taveras and infielder Tommy Whiteman to one-year contracts, the team announced Saturday. All the players have a contract value of $316,000. McLemore was 7-7 with a 3.66 ERA at Class A Salem. Taveras won the 2004 Texas League batting title after hitting .335 for Double-A Round Rock. Whiteman hit eight home runs and had 54 RBI for Triple-A New Orleans and Round Rock in 2004. ...Astros position players will report to camp on Wednesday and with the first full-squad workout is on Thursday morning.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press