Originally created 04/28/04

Astros-Pirates game postponed



PITTSBURGH -- The Houston-Pittsburgh game was postponed Tuesday because of cold weather and the threat of sleet and rain.

Astros left-hander Andy Pettitte likes Thursday's forecast a lot better.

Temperatures in the high 70s, not the high 30s. Partly cloudy skies. And, best of all, he's pitching.

Pettitte (0-1), who has missed all but one start this month because of a strained left elbow, has been cleared to start Thursday against the Pirates' Kip Wells (2-2). To say Pettitte is looking forward to it would be an understatement.

"Obviously, I'm extremely excited," said Pettitte, the former Yankees star who signed a $31.5 million, three-year contract with his hometown Astros in December. "It's been a very disappointing first month for me."

Pettitte was injured while trying to check his swing during his Astros debut April 6 against San Francisco. After several weeks of rest, he pitched a simulated game at Houston's extended spring training camp Friday in Kissimmee, Fla., then threw bullpen sessions Sunday in Denver and again Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

"I usually don't throw two bullpens between starts but I'm trying to burn a little energy," he said Tuesday. "I don't want to feel too strong out there."

The Astros chose to push back Pettitte to Thursday afternoon rather than have him pitch Sunday in chilly Denver - the same kind of weather that led to Tuesday night's postponement in Pittsburgh. That game was rescheduled for a 5:05 p.m. doubleheader Sept. 9 during what now becomes a five-game series.

Pettitte appreciates the cautious approach the Astros are taking, but is eager to resume pitching.

"It's made it a lot easier with the team not wanting to rush me back," he said. "You realize it's a long, long season. You also realize I've missed the first month of the season, so I'm really anxious to get back and get going."

The Astros haven't announced a pitch count for Pettitte's return, but he expects it to be in the 75-80 range. By this time of the season, he's usually ready to start throwing complete games.

"I'm behind and I realize that, and I'm just going to have to take it slow," he said. "Even in spring training, they keep you to a pitch limit and I never got to throw the number of pitches I need to throw to stretch me out."

Pettitte felt fine while pitching five innings in Kissimmee and during the bullpen sessions, and he doesn't expect to be subconsciously thinking about the injury Thursday.

"Whenever I get on the mound, I'm not going to worry about anything. If something happens, it's going to happen," he said. "But it's nothing anything I'm going to take to the mound in the back of my head."

Pettitte allowed six runs and 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings on April 6. He was 21-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 33 starts for New York last season.

Because Tuesday's game was called off, Astros right-hander Tim Redding (0-3, 10.22 ERA) will miss his scheduled start. Roy Oswalt (2-0) will stay on schedule and pitch Wednesday night.

However, Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon won't skip over his own struggling right-hander. Josh Fogg (0-3, 17.00 ERA) threw two simulated games after failing to retire any of the six batters he faced in a 12-1 loss April 21 to the Cubs, and McClendon didn't want him going another five days without pitching.

Kris Benson (2-1), who was to have opposed Pettitte on Thursday, is set to start Friday night in Milwaukee.

Tuesday's postponement was the second during what was supposed to be a 10-game homestand for the Pirates. Their scheduled game Thursday against the Cubs was postponed until May 28. They also had a nearly 3-hour rain delay before their 6-0 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday.