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The lingering question with Pettitte

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[2]Andy Pettitte is signed. One year, $12 million. Forty-one years old in June. Five-man rotation in much better shape.

But here’s the number we still don’t know: How many innings can Pettitte actually pitch?

Because of injuries and premature retirement, Pettitte hasn’t reached 130 innings since 2009. Last year, even with the postseason he didn’t reach 100.

“I’m pretty confident,” Pettitte said yesterday. “I think 2010, I pulled the groin, so my innings were limited that year. I retired in 2011, then I threw the innings I did last year. I realize it’s been three years since I’ve pitched a normal full season. I know one thing, it’s going to be very good for me to know that I’m going (to pitch). I was training at the end of the season to get back for the postseason as best I could with my leg being broke, but knowing now that I have the rest of this offseason to train and get ready for a full season, I expect to be healthy. I expect to make my 34 starts or however many the Yankees want me to make. I think I can do that. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t try to do this again.

“I want to come and be an effective pitcher for us. For me, that’s going out there and taking my turn every fifth day, taking some of the pressure off the guys that are in the rotation right now.”

Even at his age, it’s hard to doubt that Pettitte can still be effective. He was terrific last season, and he’s talked about the limited workload making him feel fresh. What the Yankees need more than anything is a quality third starter, and Pettitte should give them that. But there has to be some question about just how much he can handle at this point.

It’s Pettitte, so another 200-inning season might not be out of the question. Can’t put it past him, but can’t count on it either.

“It was just like riding a bike last year,” Pettitte said. “From the first bullpen to the end, my command was good. My confidence was good. I felt like my focus was good. I don’t know. I feel like the older you get, you find a comfort level. I know that I really felt like that last year, and I hope to feel that exact same way this year all season.”

Don’t forget. Chat at noon. Stop by!

Associated Press photo