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KANSAS CITY -- Andy Pettitte canceled out of a scheduled simulated game at the New York Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday morning after experiencing some stiffness in his left hip flexor.
While stopping short of calling the incident a setback in Pettitte's rehabilitation from the groin strain that landed him on the disabled list July 20, Yankee manager Joe Girardi acknowledged he was concerned about the 38-year-old left-hander's ability to return to the rotation this month.
"God, we'd love to have him back as soon as possible but it is what it is and we have to deal with it,'' Girardi said before Thursday night's game with the Royals. Girardi said he called Pettitte around noon Thursday to find out how the scheduled two-inning simulated game went, only to be told, "Um, I didn't do it.''
Pettitte told Girardi he felt stiffness in the area of his left hip flexor -- on the same side as the groin strain he suffered while pitching against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 19 at Yankee Stadium -- while getting up from his couch Wednesday afternoon.
"He said it felt a little stiff, so he backed off, which was smart,'' Girardi said. "Hopefully he feels good and he can do his simulated game [Friday]. But if it takes a couple of extra days, it takes a couple of extra days. We're gonna be cautious with it.''
Pettitte's discomfort is reminiscent of an injury that sidelined Alex Rodriguez for a couple of games in June, when what A-Rod called a groin strain the team officially termed a hip flexor injury. But Girardi said he did not know if Pettitte's hip stiffness was related to his groin strain.
"Could it be related? Sure,'' Girardi said. "It could be from favoring the groin. There's a lot of things it could be. We don't know for sure.''
Girardi said Pettitte was not examined by a doctor, nor had he undergone any tests. "If he feels something tomorrow, maybe that's the next step,'' Girardi said. "Obviously, whenever you don't stay on schedule as a player, there's a concern.''
At the time of the injury, which caused him to leave the game after 2 1/3 innings, Pettitte was enjoying the best start of his 17-year career: He is 11-2, and has a team-low 2.88 ERA among starting pitchers. Although the original prognosis called for him to miss four to five weeks, Pettitte was targeting a return around Aug. 21.
"If you have to push it back, you push it back because the last thing you want is a real big setback,'' Girardi said. "Because then you're talking about another month or six weeks.''
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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