Andy Pettitte made it official Friday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. “My heart’s not where it needs to be,” he said with his wife Laura at his side when he met the media. Retiring from the game after 16 years is not easy to do, 13 of those years pitching for the New York Yankees.
But it was a decision that the Yankees had to expect and an adjustment they will cope with on the field and in the clubhouse. The past three years there has been speculation as to when Pettitte, third on the Yankees all-time win list would call it quits.
General Manager Brian Cashman knew the day was coming, even though there was hope that Pettitte would reconsider and give him one more year. Because the Yankees pitching rotation is that much thinner without Pettitte, the 38-year old lefthander who set a major league record for postseason wins at 19-10.
Cashman had that look of disappointment hoping he would get another year out of the lefthander. He wasn’t saying much as to where the Yankees go from here with their pitching rotation. They made some minor moves in the past few weeks signing veterans Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia to spring training deals, obviously knowing that this day was coming.
And is always the case with the Yankees, they won’t sit still. They always have a way of filling a void at some juncture before or during the season. However it is quite clear, at the moment, that Pettitte will not pull a Bret Favre or Roger Clemens fiasco and decide that he needs to be back on the mound.
However Petitte did not rule out a return. He said he can still pitch and would be ready to throw when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa for spring training in 12 days. “I’m one hundred percent not playing this season,” he said with a smile, “but I can never say never.”
“It just didn’t feel right for me anymore,” said Pettitte claiming he felt he was done when he left Arlington Stadium in October when the Yankees season ended with a loss to the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series. “I didn’t have the hunger, the drive I felt I needed,” he said.
And when Bernie Williams walked in the conference room, as Pettitte was talking, the emotions were flowing. They were teammates for the four championship teams under manager Joe Torre, a part of the core four with Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter that remain.
“Those guys are huge reasons why I have been so successful,” he said. And the reason he returned to the Yankees after pitching three years with the Houston Astros was to get another ring, be with the core again, and pitch at the new Yankee Stadium.
He said, “Coming Back here helping them win another championship was extra special.” There was some mention about his decision having to do with appearing as a witness this summer at the trial of his former teammate Clemens, who lied to a congressional committee and a denial of using performance enhancing drugs.
“That has not had any affect,” said Pettitte, “I mean zero in my decision. It’s had no impact in my life.”
The next chapter in his life is spending time with his family down in Texas, watching his son play baseball, his girl play volleyball and having summer vacations with the family. There is always the possibility that Pettitte could return to the Yankees family as a coach, or as a broadcaster, and there will be an invite to Oldtimer’s Day with other Yankees legends.
Manager Joe Girardi sat in the front row along with Cashman leaving the spotlight to Pettitte and his wife at the podium. “We will miss the relationships we had with him back in the clubhouse,” said Girardi knowing also that there is definite void now in his pitching rotation.
Pettitte finishes his career second in starts as a Yankee pitcher, behind Whitey Ford with a 240-138 record and 3.83 ERA. Hall of Fame numbers perhaps for his post season exploits.
For now Pettitte retires as a Yankee and hopefully there is no desperation from the Yankees hierarchy to lure him back if there is indeed a need for pitching in mid season.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]