TAMPA, Fla. -- No closer has ever saved as many games for a starting pitcher as Mariano Rivera has for Andy Pettitte. Sixty-eight times in their careers, Pettitte has started a game that Mo has finished.
But today marked a first in both of their careers: as Pettitte was preparing to throw the first pitch to a team of Single A Toronto Blue Jays farmhands on Field #1 at the Yankees minor-league complex, Rivera was doing the exact same thing, right next to him on Field #2.
The Andy and Mo Show attracted a relatively large crowd to the normally quiet collection of baseball diamonds located across Dale Mabry Hwy. from the Yankees spring training headquarters at George Steinbrenner Field.
"Funny it worked out like that," Pettitte said. "People must have been thinking, 'What the heck is going on over here?'"
Rather than the usual order of things -- Pettitte starts, Mo relieves -- the Yankees had them pitch simultaneously to spare Rivera from having to sit around for a couple of hours waiting to pitch on what was an off-day for every other Yankee besides him, Pettitte and Francisco Cervelli, who was brought in to catch them.
And since Rivera's day consisted of two innings -- a surprisingly long outing for a pitcher who almost never works more than one inning in any game -- he was headed home before 2:00 p.m., while Pettitte, who worked into the sixth inning of a slow-paced game, worked until nearly 3:00.
Both declared their outings a success. Mo threw 31 pitches in his two innings, sawed off a couple of bats, caught two young players looking at his cutter for called third strikes, and didn't allow a hit to to a group of terribly overmatched low-level A ballers.
Pettitte allowed two runs in his 5-2/3 innings, alled eight hits, struck out seven and didn't walk anyone in his 79 pitch outing. His next start, on Saturday against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, the goal is for him to throw 90-95 pitches, his final big start -- he will have one more, shorter outing the final week of camp -- before the beginning of the regular season.
"I left some balls over the middle of the plate that I was trying to throw out of the zone, and that's always frustrating for me," said Pettitte, who gave up three soft singles in the second inning and a pair of doubles in the fourth. "But all in all, in this atmosphere if you get through it healthy, it’s good, and to be able to go out there for six innings is good."
Mo, asked if he enjoyed his one-day return to being a starter, said, "No. I like to finish."
The next time he and Pettitte are pitching on the same day, you can bet it will be in the same game. Pettitte will start. Mo will finish.