TAMPA, Fla. -- The moment that Andy Pettitte felt his heart kick back into overdrive came atop the bullpen mound of a deserted ballpark just after dawn, his dew-dampened spikes digging into the solid red mound clay once more.
Putting the pinstripes back on confirmed Pettitte's longing for more, and so the game's winningest postseason pitcher was inside the chain-linked fences of a silent George M. Steinbrenner Field this week, secretly showcasing his talents for a select audience.
You could have called it a tryout, but Pettitte's lengthy resume hardly suggests that he needed one. The Yankees agreed, and on Friday, 406 days after holding a retirement farewell at Yankee Stadium, the club finalized a non-guaranteed, $2.5 million Minor League contract with the 39-year-old left-hander.
"For me, it's a no-brainer -- I'm not scared," Pettitte said. "I don't think I'm going to fail, but I'm not scared to come back. I'm not worried about that. I'm going to trust that I know in my heart I'm doing the right thing. And I'm hoping and praying that it's going to be great."
Auditioning his wares for a group that included general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and special assistant GM Gene Michael wasn't as bizarre as it had been for Pettitte to walk into camp as a guest instructor this spring, representing his generation's Whitey Ford.
Pettitte made the hard left turn into the coaches' room instead of the familiar right into the sanctuary of the players' clubhouse. His No. 46 hung in a locker once again, but instead of running sprints alongside CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera, Pettitte found himself chatting about the trials and tribulations of fatherhood with the likes of Ron Guidry and Goose Gossage.
Pettitte swore that he was content with his decision to retire after the 2010 season, doing so because his heart -- and not his elbow, as the lefty always feared -- had betrayed him. But Pettitte was displaying his poker face, and -- according to teammates -- not doing a particularly good job of it.
"We talked about it," Sabathia said. "It's something that I knew he was thinking about. I didn't really know which way he was going to lean toward, but I'm definitely glad that he decided to come back."
Keeping his arm in shape by sweating through endless batting-practice sessions with his sons down in Texas, Pettitte had maintained a secret dialogue with the Yankees dating as far back as December.
Cashman acknowledged Friday that he had made Pettitte a substantial contract offer in the $10 million-12 million range before the club's acquisitions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, but with Pettitte unable to commit, the club moved on other opportunities.
"Quite honestly, at the time, I didn't think either would happen," Cashman said of the Kuroda and Pineda moves. "But I made sure he was aware that it was possible."
Pettitte briefly stopped working out, but he so enjoyed the thrill that he quietly picked it up again. During Pettitte's last day in camp as a guest instructor, he pulled Cashman into Girardi's office, closing the door behind them and telling him that he wanted to try pitching again.
They revisited the topic on March 10 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., when Pettitte was in the area for a church appearance, but an agreement was not officially reached until Friday morning.
"This is all about me having the desire to do this again," Pettitte said, noting he'd play for no other team. "For what I'm coming back and playing for, it's an awful lot of money and I realize that, but it's a long ways away from what we were talking about in January. But I have a desire to work again."
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner authorized the payroll increase to accommodate Pettitte, and if the left-hander approaches anything like the 2010 season in which he was 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA as an American League All-Star, the Yankees feel they will have a bargain.
"This is Andy Pettitte," Cashman said. "How do you say no to that potential asset, despite what you have? ... All that equipment is still there, or should still be there. Let's go see. Why not?"
Cashman said that Pettitte will likely need a full seven weeks to prepare for pitching in big league games.
"It's really hard to say," Cashman said. "He hasn't thrown in a game since October 2010. We're going to make sure we do the right thing, not cut a corner and rush and put him in a position where this is a waste of time and he's not going to be in a position to stay healthy and be healthy and not be effective. He's got to go through and get ready."
A five-time World Series winner with the Yankees -- in 1996, '98-2000 and '09 -- Pettitte announced his retirement in a news conference at Yankee Stadium on Feb. 4, 2011. He said that day that he would feel embarrassment if he were to ever return, and Pettitte acknowledged Friday that it had proven true.
"I am embarrassed that I'm coming back, but then, I'm like, 'What can I do?'" Pettitte said. "Things have changed. My desire to do this has changed, and I sure as heck don't want to look back 10 years ago and say, 'Man, I wish I would have done that.'"
The addition of Pettitte complicates a rotation picture that had figured to see Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia competing for a final spot, behind the quartet of Sabathia, Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Pineda.
"The one thing that I know is you can never have too much starting pitching, never, because you're going to go through things during the course of the season," Girardi said. "Could it make our job a little more difficult? Sure it could. But you never know; we might need all seven. Who knows?"
Pettitte said that one of the first people he heard from was recently retired Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who sent a congratulatory text message on Friday. Pettitte spoke to captain Derek Jeter and laughed as he told a story of Nick Swisher excitedly screaming into his cell phone.
"The guys on the club, on the team, the desire they show for me to come back has just been amazing," Pettitte said.
Pettitte has pitched 13 of his 16 big league seasons with the Yankees, spending 2004-06 with the Astros, and he ranks as the all-time leader in postseason wins (19), starts (42) and innings pitched (263).
His 203 victories as a Yankee rank third in franchise history, behind Hall of Famers Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231), and his 1,823 strikeouts are second, only 133 behind Ford's 1,956.
Those numbers appeared to be frozen when Pettitte went through the paces of retirement 13 months ago; now, Pettitte will challenge himself to prove that there is more in the tank.
"I really believe that mentally I'll be able to get back to where I was," Pettitte said. "I believe that if I'm mentally right, I'm going to win. I just believe that."