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Andy Pettitte looking for answers on loss of cutter, lack of command

05/05/2013 5:58 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Andy Pettitte labored through five innings on Sunday and did not factor into the decision in the Yankees' 5-4 loss to the Athletics.(AP)
Although his offense bailed him out in terms of not taking the loss, Andy Pettitte struggled for the second straight start on Sunday, allowing four runs over five innings to Oakland. Pettitte needed 100 pitches to get through those five frames, and the southpaw admitted that as in his previous outing, he simply didn't have the feel all day long.

"It was a struggle. The issue was everything again; everything you want to do as a starting pitcher I couldn't do," Pettitte said. "I had no command of my fastball, I wasn't able to hit with my off-speed stuff when I wanted to, and it was a battle again."

Only 57 of Pettitte's 100 pitches were strikes, and the southpaw admitted that he could feel his pitches slipping during the game, something he's not used to even after more than 17 years on a Major League mound.

"Everything has been great in my bullpens, so something is going on during the game. My release point is floating around a little bit, and I can feel it. I feel pretty good on a few pitches, but you know when a ball comes off your fingers that it's not coming off right," Pettitte said. "We're just going to keep working and hopefully get it right in my next start. It's frustrating, and it's been a long time since I haven't had a feel of my pitches."

Singling out one pitch, Pettitte was most puzzled by the disappearance of his cutter; the lefty said he felt his cutter was "perhaps the best I've ever had" during his start in Tampa on April 24. It has been more of a hindrance than an ace in the hole over his last two outings.

"It's real difficult. My cutter is non-existent right now, so a pitch in certain counts that I want to go to isn't there, so it's awfully difficult," Pettitte said. "When I do throw a good one and trust it and the next one's a bad pitch, it's hard to trust it again. I have to figure that out. … It's something I didn't think would ever happen at this stage, and I felt I let everyone down, so I need to get it right and fix it as soon as possible."

Pettitte did allow just four hits in his five innings, although two of them were home runs. He said both of them came on misplaced fastballs and were instances of him simply not executing.

"I definitely felt flashes and I threw some quality pitches, but when you try to trust what you just did and it ends up right down the middle, that's a bad feeling," Pettitte said. "I felt like the one to Cespedes was where I wanted it, but when you're not able to locate, it's pretty easy to hang out over the plate and hit those pitches, so I have to find a way to keep those guys honest."

Pettitte went 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA in his first three starts, but is now 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in his last three and stands at 3-2 with a 4.06 ERA overall. He continually said he knows he needs to keep working to figure out what's causing his recent swoon, but one thing that the southpaw did rule out was any sort of injury.

"I feel good. I wish I could tell you something's hurting, but I feel good, and that's the frustrating part. I've pitched a lot better than this when something's been hurting," Pettitte said. "It's pitching, and it's a grind; I love the battle, it would just be nice to have a little bit of an idea of where the ball's going."

And, as he does try to figure it out, he'll have the support of manager Joe Girardi, who said he wasn't necessarily concerned just yet about his veteran lefty.

"I'm not going to judge someone on two starts. If it goes on for a month, then there's some concern, but I think every pitcher in the Major Leagues has had a couple starts that weren't so good or were not what you're used to seeing," Girardi said. "If Andy was 26, or 32, we wouldn't even ask the question, but because of his age, we're talking about it. Two starts is way too little to make a determination."

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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