There were two good things that the Yankees were able to take away from Wednesday night in Tampa Bay.
The first; they were able to avoid getting swept by salvaging a 6-4 victory in the series finale over the Tampa Bay Rays, thus pushing them back alone on top of the A.L. East over the Orioles.
The second; the road to recovery for Andy Pettitte got another dose of good news as the lefty threw to live hitters for the first time in his rehab process, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York.
Sweeney Murti of WFAN talked to Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who said that Pettitte looked excellent throwing to live batters and that his arm strength is right where they want it to be.
Andy Pettitte threw 15 pitches to hitters and Larry Rothschild said he was "excellent" and arm strength was where he expected it to be.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) September 5, 2012
According to Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues Yankees Blog, he threw to four batters in "one inning" of work: Casey McGehee twice, Chris Dickerson and Eduardo Nunez.
What is encouraging from this was that Pettitte felt that he could push off without having to hold back and put full force on his delivery.
"It was good, man," Pettitte said. "I felt like I threw the ball well. I felt like I was pushing off full. I almost tried to make it like a game, so it was a good day."
Pettitte will look to throw another couple more simulated innings while the team is at Camden Yards to take on the Baltimore Orioles this weekend.
Because the Class-AAA and Class-AA teams are currently engaged in playoff series right now, Pettitte likely won't be pitching there and will have to get his rehab starts from these simulated outings before games.
Doctors have yet to clear Pettitte to start running, which again throws off the time table of when to expect him back for the Yankees in his attempt to make around two to three starts before the playoffs.
Axisa did note in his story that September 26 or September 27 would be the absolute latest dates that Pettitte could get back in order to make the two starts needed to prepare for the postseason.
If it were on September 26, that would be an afternoon game at Target Field against the Minnesota Twins.
If it were on September 27, that would be the start of a three-game series at Rogers Centre against the Toronto Blue Jays.
After Toronto, the Yankees close out the season by playing the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park from October 1-3.
While a return date for Pettitte is still up in the air, I think we'll know more after this weekend when the 40-year-old throws a couple more simulated innings to hitters.
But Wednesday was another step in the right direction for Pettitte, an arm in the rotation the Yankees desperately need in their quest to hang on to their division lead.
Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.