02/03/11 8:32 PM EST
Pettitte, postseason wins leader, to retire
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
After months of waiting and speculation, the 38-year-old left-hander has made a final decision. Joined by general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi, Pettitte will announce his retirement Friday at a news conference at Yankee Stadium.
The all-time leader in postseason wins (19), starts (42) and innings pitched (263), Pettitte pitched for 16 seasons in the Major Leagues, 13 of them for the Yankees. His 240 career wins are the 13th most by a left-hander in Major League history.
Pettitte won five World Series titles with the Yankees -- 1996, 1998-2000 and 2009 -- and appeared in three other Fall Classics. In postseason play, he is tied for second in strikeouts (173) with Roger Clemens, 26 behind John Smoltz.
"Andy played with a competitive spirit that brought out the best in the teams he played for, and he exemplified this franchise's commitment and will to win. He was an anchor for the tremendous success our team has achieved since the mid-1990s," Hal and Hank Steinbrenner said in a statement on Thursday.
"A person and player the caliber of Andy Pettitte does not come around often, and he has earned the right to be considered among the greats that have worn the Pinstripes."
|All-time K's for Yankees||1,823||2|
|All-time wins for Yankees||203||3|
|All-time wins for LHP||240||T13|
|All-time K's for LHP||2,251||T16|
His 203 Yankees victories put him third in franchise history, behind Hall of Famers Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231), and his 1,823 strikeouts are second to Ford in team history. He ranks 16th all-time for strikeouts by a left-hander with 2,251.
Cashman has said that Pettitte told him not to count on a return after the Bombers' American League Championship Series loss to the Texas Rangers, with Cashman believing Pettitte essentially decided to retire.
"He cares deeply about this franchise, whether it's in 2011 or 2020," Cashman said last week. "He wants us to always win and be successful. He knows he'll always be a Yankee, but whether he decides to pitch again is what's at issue. He has, at this stage, decided not to pitch."
Since the Yankees were able to woo Pettitte back in each of the previous two offseasons under similar circumstances, there were glimmers of hope on the organization's part that Pettitte might decide to pitch.
Perhaps most convincingly, Girardi said that Pettitte told him he was beginning to throw near his Deer Park, Texas, home, just in case he wanted to give it another try this spring.
But ultimately the Yankees knew that Pettitte's heart would have to be completely in it, a sense they did not necessarily get after the ALCS, when Pettitte said that he would need time to mull his decision with his wife, Laura, and their children.
"The only thing I know right now is I love taking the mound every fifth day," Pettitte said then. "Unfortunately, there's a lot of other stuff that, at this point and stage of my life, I don't like about baseball. Obviously it just has to do with family.
"... Those off-days get hard, trying to fly home to see your family for a day, 24 hours. That's a tough deal. The kids are getting to an age where I want to be home. But I also know how important what I do is. I'm a man and this is my job. This is all I've ever known as an adult. Like I said last year, I want to make sure I fully exhaust myself of this and run it out."
Last season, Pettitte turned in an All-Star campaign for New York, going 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts despite missing two months with a left groin injury, with which he expressed disappointment and frustration.
Returning from the disabled list for the season's final month, Pettitte logged his last postseason victory with a win in Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the Minnesota Twins.
It was later revealed that Pettitte was hiding a hamstring strain in the ALCS that would have put a potential Game 7 start in question. In what figures to be his final appearance on Oct. 18, Pettitte allowed two runs over seven innings but lost to Cliff Lee and the Rangers, 8-0.
As he left the field, the Yankee Stadium crowd saluted Pettitte, not sure if it was the last time they would have the opportunity. It was largely overlooked at the time, as the Yankees fought for their playoff existence, but Pettitte realized the significance of the moment.
"I would say, when I'm out of the game, sitting in the clubhouse, you kind of think about that," Pettitte acknowledged that night.
Originally a 22nd-round selection of the Yankees in the June First-Year Player Draft, Pettitte compiled a career winning percentage of .635 (240-138), the eighth-best all-time among left-handers who began their career in 1950 or later.
He broke into the Major Leagues with the Yankees in 1995, the same year as teammates Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. They, along with Jorge Posada, who played in one game in '95 but joined them for good in '97, became known as the "Core Four" of the team's most recent dynasty that included four championships in five years.
"It's been a pleasure to play with Andy for all these years, and the Yankees have been fortunate to have him representing the organization both on and off the field," Jeter said in a statement.
"More importantly it's been an honor to get to know him as a person, and I consider him family. I wish for nothing but happiness for him and his family, as I know how important they are to him."
Added Posada: "I'm really sad that Andy is going to retire. He was so much more than a teammate to me -- he was one of my closest friends. I admire everything that he has accomplished as a Yankee, but Andy was someone who always put the team first. I'm going to miss him deeply."
After winning 21 games in 2003 -- his second 21-win season -- he left the Yankees for a three-year contract with Houston. A left elbow injury spoiled his season in 2004 but he rebounded to win 31 games in 2005-06 and helped the Astros reach the World Series in '05.
Pettitte was mentioned in the Mitchell Report in December 2007, and he admitted to using human growth hormone on two occasions in '02 and '04 to recover from injuries, publicly apologizing in a news conference at the Yankees' Spring Training stadium in Tampa, Fla.
He is expected to testify as a prosecution witness in the upcoming government perjury trial of Clemens, his longtime teammate in both New York and Houston. In 2008, Pettitte told Congressional investigators that Clemens admitted to HGH use in 1999 or '00.
Among active Major League pitchers at the end of the 2010 season, Pettitte ranked second in wins, starts (479) and third in innings pitched (3,055 1/3) and strikeouts (2,251).
Pettitte has pitched for eight pennant winners and 12 postseason teams. Perhaps his most memorable postseason performance occurred in his first World Series, in 1996, when he outdueled Smoltz in Game 5 for a 1-0 victory and a 3-2 Series lead over the Braves.
"I think the impact he had on the teams we had in the mid-to-late 1990s was enormous even though he was never the guy in the spotlight," said Joe Torre, the Yankees' manager from 1996-2007, in a statement.
"He liked the fact that he wasn't the No. 1 guy even though I trusted him like a No. 1 guy. But he didn't have an ego that dictated he needed all that attention."
Torre frequently cited Pettitte's 8 1/3-inning, five-hit performance as the one that defined him as a big-game pitcher.
"Andy took the ball every five days, and if he had it his way, he'd get it more often than that," Torre said. "What's really unusual about him is that a lot of times pitchers are more consumed with themselves. Andy was probably the consummate team player, especially for a pitcher. He was so concerned not only about the day he pitched, but he always had his arm around a young guy in between starts.
"He's been a huge favorite of mine because he's such a standup guy, and he hasn't changed from day one. He's a great teammate, and I think that's why he won so many games. The guys that play behind him understand how intense he is, and it becomes contagious."
Pettitte often said that he would continue to pitch as long as his left elbow didn't betray him, but the pull from home apparently became too great. His Yankees teammates voiced support this winter for the hurler's decision, whatever it was going to be.
"I want him to make the decision and whatever it is, we're going to support it," Posada said on Saturday. "Andy is a valuable guy for us. If he wants to be home, he's got the reasons to be home. But obviously we need him."
Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher added this week: "I don't know what it's like to have kids -- I haven't been fortunate enough yet -- but I know that he misses his family.
"In my opinion, if he chooses to ride off into the sunset, he's definitely earned that. We would love to have him back, but if he's got to go, he's going with glory."
Without Pettitte in the fold and having missed out on their top free-agent target in Lee -- a pursuit that Pettitte championed -- the Yankees have made smaller moves to bolster a staff that was projected to have Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre as the fourth and fifth starters.
New York has signed veterans Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training, supplementing a crop of young hopefuls like Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos looking to make an impression this spring.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Editor/producer Bobbie Dittmeier contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.