Pettitte worked five-plus innings in his first Double-A start for Trenton since 2010, raising his pitch count to 81 on a day the Yankees learned they would be without Michael Pineda for the year.
The veteran lefty, who was scheduled to throw between 80-85 pitches, was charged with four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits and a walk over five innings for the 10-4 loss. He started the sixth, but was lifted after allowing a leadoff single to Erie's Rob Brantly, eliciting the second standing ovation of the night from a packed Waterfront Park.
Pettitte struck out three, throwing 59 strikes and inducing seven ground balls.
"I wasn't happy with my command," he told MLB.com. "I made a few more mistakes than I had in my other starts. The weather was obviously different than it was in Florida, which is something I have to get used to, as well. "A couple of those kids got some good swings against me. ... I know I'm not there yet. ... All in all, it was a positive evening."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was in Trenton for the start and said Pettitte will need several more Minor League starts. The lefty is attempting a comeback after retiring last year.
"Andy is between a quarter and halfway through Spring Training after being off for 16 months," Cashman told MLB.com. "He got to near 85 pitches in this start. He looks good and feels good. He's healthy. His strength and stamina have to get to the right levels."
The Yankees will monitor Pettitte's recovery and progress in the coming week as he aims to build arm strength and stamina before returning to the Majors. Pettitte's role in the Bronx -- first viewed as an extra arm in an already crowded rotation -- could be important now that Pineda will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery and Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes have been inconsistent for New York.
"He has to go through the steps," Cashman told MLB.com. "In his next start, we'll aim for 100 pitches. When everything is right -- strength, stamina and pitches -- he'll be ready. He's not [there] yet, and Michael's situation doesn't change that.
"If I lost every starter in the Yankees rotation, I still wouldn't slot Andy in there."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he'd like Pettitte to reach 95-100 pitches in a start before the team would consider bringing him to New York.
"Now you're starting to get some higher pitch counts and you want to see how he's bouncing back," Girardi told MLB.com. "At any point, does he need an extra day in between? It's possible. It's not unusual for us to give them an extra day in Spring Training, just because they get up higher."
Pettitte allowed a run in the first inning after Michael Rockett and Brandon Douglas singled and a fielder's choice grounder by Niuman Romero plated Rockett. The lefty retired nine straight Erie batters before issuing a leadoff walk to Romero in the fourth.
Rawley Bishop and Rob Brantly had consecutive singles off Pettitte in the fourth as Erie took a 2-0 lead.
Pettitte endured some bad luck in the fifth and Erie tacked on a third run. Jamie Johnson singled and a fielding error by third baseman Addison Maruszak set up an RBI single by Brandon Douglas. Pettitte tagged out Rockett in a rundown between third and home following a fielder's choice before retiring Jordan Lennerton and Bishop to end the frame.
Trenton fans stood and cheered as Pettitte walked off the mound, assuming the four-time World Series champion was done for the night. He ended up returning to start the sixth, but exited quickly after Brantly grounded a single to right.
Thunder reliever Preston Claiborn eventually allowed Brantly to score, finishing Pettitte's line for the night.
Pettitte spent 13 seasons in New York before retiring after the 2010 season. He announced his comeback during Spring Training and has been working his way back to form in the Minors. In two starts for Class A Advanced Tampa, he allowed one run on four hits and struck out five over seven innings.
"I can't wait to get to the Yankees and do battle with those guys," Pettitte told MLB.com. "But it won't do either myself or the team any good until I'm ready, and I'm not.