Pettitte throws first curves off mound since surgery

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

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.