NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte entered retirement as one of the most beloved Yankees pitchers of all time, and he emerged from his work stoppage with that sentiment intact.
Pettitte, making his first start in nearly 600 days, turned back the clock to 2010 Sunday, when he controlled Seattle early but fell to a 6-2 loss on a pair of two-run home runs. The left-hander said he didn't feel any rust from his layover and that his velocity and location were good enough to win.
"I just cannot believe how comfortable it is for me," he said. "I guess it's strange to think that I was coaching Pony League baseball and throwing batting practice to kids -- watching high school baseball and stuff like that -- and now I'm doing this. But it's like I picked right back up from where I was."
Indeed, if you discount the final result, Pettitte gave a fairly standard outing. The southpaw, who has more victories (203) with his team than any other active pitcher, had gone 7-0 in 11 daytime starts during 2010, and he had allowed more than one home run just three times in 21 outings.
Pettitte worked in the high 80-mph range for much of the game with his fastball, and he held the Mariners to one hit in the first four innings. That lone hit was a two-run homer by Justin Smoak, and Pettitte later allowed Casper Wells to drill a two-run homer off the right-field foul pole that put the Yankees down by a 4-1 margin.
"It felt like I never left," Pettitte said. "It's frustrating, and obviously I'm disappointed in getting the loss. The guys gave me a chance to get right back in the game and get me a run, then I go back out and give up a two-run homer. You can't do that. I got a little careless with a few pitches, and it cost me."
Seattle, backed by a strong outing from starter Kevin Millwood, scored twice more against the Yankees' bullpen in the ninth inning to provide the final margin. Pettitte, for his return, worked into the seventh inning and allowed 10 baserunners -- seven on hits and three on walks.
Pettitte, at 39 years and 333 days, immediately became New York's oldest starter since 45-year-old Roger Clemens got the ball during the 2007 campaign. Manager Joe Girardi said he was pleased with the way the veteran worked, and more pleased that he'll be around the rest of the year.
"I thought he was pretty good," said Girardi. "You look at the first five innings, and he really only gave up the one hard-hit ball and got a ton of ground-ball outs. He used pretty much all his pitches. And they hit some balls hard in the sixth, but to get us into the seventh inning, that's pretty good."
Both of New York's RBIs came as a result of a bases-loaded walk. The Yankees (19-15) were held to just one hit in the first four innings -- much like Seattle -- and the Bombers' best early scoring chance was erased when Millwood forced Derek Jeter to hit into a double play in the fifth.
The Yankees had already scored one run in that rally, and Pettitte (0-1) began the sixth with his team trailing by a run. The first batter -- Dustin Ackley, who had hit a ball to the wall in his first at-bat -- singled, and moments later, Wells belted his homer.
"You gotta give those two guys credit -- they hit those home runs -- but other than that, he looked sharp," said Jeter of his longtime teammate. "He did exactly what we had hoped he would do. They hit a couple home runs, but other than that, he pitched well, threw strikes, got out of a couple jams."
The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth inning, and Alex Rodriguez drew a bases-loaded walk to pull them within two runs. But the Mariners (16-20) used four pitchers to get through the eighth -- two for one batter each -- before Brandon League closed out the ninth.
The Yankees, who have won five of their last seven games, will hit the road on a two-city trip to Baltimore and Toronto. Pettitte, for his part, acknowledged the crowd with a wave as he left the field on Sunday, but he really wants to blend into the scenery on a start-by-start basis.
"I'm nitpicking this one start, because I know that's what we want to do here today," he said. "This happens to me a ton during the course of the season, and that's what pitching is all about -- trying to figure out what you've got that day and attacking the guys. Figure out a way to get them out when you don't have your good stuff.
"That's what I feel like I've done my whole career, and there's not a question in my mind about how this is all going to play out for me. And it's not about this one start. I'll measure if this was a successful return or not at the end of October when I'm hoping we'll be where we want to be."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.