Pettitte discusses 'embarrassment'
Yankees lefty expresses remorse for decision to use HGH
TAMPA, Fla. -- Embarrassed by his past use of human growth hormone, Andy Pettitte made his anticipated Spring Training debut on Monday, apologizing for decisions that he called "stupid" and "desperate" while admitting that he recently again contemplated retirement.
With a cool breeze at his back, the hurler addressed a group of about 150 reporters in a tent outside Legends Field, saying that the past few months in the wake of the Mitchell Report have been "a very difficult time" for him and his family.
The comments were Pettitte's first in public after his testimony played prominently in Roger Clemens' Capitol Hill showdown last week with former trainer Brian McNamee.
Lauded in absence by Congress for his honesty, the 35-year-old left-hander said that he would attempt to be as forthcoming as possible for the media. Flanked by manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman, Pettitte opened the news conference by reading a hand-written statement that had been dictated to his wife, Laura, while the couple was driving on Monday.
"I want to apologize to the New York Yankees and to the Houston Astros organizations and to their fans and to all of my teammates and to all of baseball's fans for the embarrassment I have caused them," Pettitte said. "I also want to tell anyone that is an Andy Pettitte fan that I'm sorry, especially any kids who might look up to me.
"Since graduating high school, I have spent my life working with young kids at my church and in my community. I never want a young person to do what I did."
Pettitte said he used HGH twice in 2002 and once more in 2004 while attempting to recover from injury. He admitted the first two instances shortly after the Mitchell Report's Dec. 13 release, but he did not reveal the third use until signing a Feb. 8 affidavit, provided for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in lieu of an in-person appearance to testify.
Wearing a black polo shirt and sporting a close-cropped haircut, Pettitte was accompanied by two attorneys, Thomas Farrell and Jay Reisinger. While Pettitte fielded most questions without hesitation, there were some he could not legally respond to because they pertain to an active investigation.
The entire ordeal took center stage in a Congressional dissection of the Mitchell Report's accuracy last Wednesday -- a nationally televised hearing that Pettitte said he did not watch. It has impacted what was once a close friendship: Pettitte said he has not spoken to the 45-year-old Clemens in about a month, and he declined to comment when asked why Clemens claims that Pettitte "misremembered" exchanges that Pettitte said detailed Clemens' HGH use, allegedly taking place in 1999 or 2000.
"Roger said what he had to say, and that's really all I have to say about the whole situation," Pettitte said.
The final seconds of Clemens' Capitol Hill appearance ended with the 354-game winner trying to overpower chairman Henry A. Waxman's banging gavel, pleading that Pettitte had been mistaken about the context of their conversation.
"I love the guy like a brother," Pettitte said of Clemens. "I hope that relationship will still be there."
By backing McNamee's allegations and lending credence by admitting his own use, Pettitte said he has been put in the awkward situation of being essentially pitted against Clemens.
"I've never tried to take sides in Roger and Mac's situation -- I've only been honest," Pettitte said. "Roger has been one of my closest friends in baseball over the last nine years. He has taught me more about pitching than I ever could've imagined.
"Mac has pushed me in my workouts, harder than anyone I've ever worked with. I've been friends with Roger and Mac for a long time, and hopefully we'll continue to be friends after this."
While Pettitte initially admitted to using HGH on two occasions in June 2002, attempting to reduce time on the disabled list with a sore left elbow, Pettitte said he felt "very uncomfortable" going to McNamee's Tampa hotel room for illicit injections.
In the affidavit, Pettitte said he tore his flexor tendon in his first start of 2004 for the Astros after signing a three-year, $31 million deal. Given the finances at hand, Pettitte said he was determined to continue pitching, even though surgery was imminent.
Pettitte said he did not include that instance in his December written statement because he obtained the drug from his father, Tom, who was using HGH to treat a heart ailment.
"I was never going to bring my dad up," Pettitte said. "It was between me and him. Why in the world would I ever have to bring it up? But I also knew that once I got under oath, I knew that I had to sleep at night."
Upon arriving in Tampa, Fla., on Monday on a private jet, Pettitte was eager to put his troubled offseason behind him. The left-hander threw a 35-pitch bullpen session at the Yankees' Minor League facility on his own suggestion, and he will join the roster on Tuesday for workouts after undergoing his official physical.
Cashman said that baseball has provided a refuge for numerous players in past seasons when they are involved in off-field issues. The Yankees are not unfamiliar with the process; in 2005, slugger Jason Giambi issued a public apology relating to his involvement in the BALCO steroids scandal, then earned American League Comeback Player of the Year honors.
"I think you'll see the smile back on his face," Cashman said of Pettitte.
Pettitte was greeted by Yankees ownership early on Monday, speaking with general partner Hal Steinbrenner at Legends Field before being summoned to the fourth floor to meet with principal owner George Steinbrenner and senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner.
According to Cashman, who was present, Pettitte repeatedly apologized for causing distractions. Eventually, George Steinbrenner cut him off, assuring Pettitte that he had not prompted any embarrassment to the organization.
"It's one of those moments when the Boss is trying to take one of his own back in the family," Cashman said.
Three Yankees also attended the press conference: Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. At one point, Pettitte and Jeter shared a grin for an extended pause, while Posada and Rivera listened to Pettitte's words intently.
"They're close," Girardi said. "This is a family. They believe in each other and they're there, through thick and thin."
Pettitte said he planned to address the rest of his teammates in some fashion shortly. Pitchers and catchers were required to report on Thursday, and though Pettitte was granted an extension, much of the camp's discussion has revolved around Pettitte's situation and state of mind.
"I still want to apologize to them, because I don't feel like any of them should have to answer questions about me," Pettitte said.
While Pettitte expressed hope that his dealings with the issue can be put behind him, there is a chance that baseball will not be his only concern in 2008.
Pettitte's deposition and affidavit should stand if the Department of Justice finds reason to pursue a perjury offense against Clemens, Farrell said. But Pettitte could also be summoned to testify as a witness in the pending defamation suit Clemens has filed against McNamee, which was moved to a Houston federal court last week.
During Pettitte's press conference, one of his attorneys could be seen recording Pettitte's responses on a legal pad.
"We're going through this with him," Farrell said, "and we'll deal with whatever comes up. His job is to play baseball. He'll do fine and we'll do fine."
Pettitte signed a one-year, $16 million contract with the Yankees on Dec. 6, one week before the Mitchell Report was released, and said that he did not believe he had misled the club by accepting their offer.
Yet he toyed with retirement leading up to the decision and admitted that he also pondered hanging up his spikes after the Report saw daylight.
"I felt like that wouldn't be a very honorable thing to do; that wouldn't be a thing to do as a man," Pettitte said. "I felt like I needed to come out and be forward with this. Whatever circumstances or repercussions come with it, I'll take it like a man and I'll try to do my job."
Pettitte said that Girardi, among others, had been especially persuasive in convincing the pitcher to return. New York projects Pettitte as a workhorse in a rotation transitioning to youth, expecting him to eat up innings after going 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 34 starts (36 games) last year.
A career 201-game winner who was a member of each of the Yankees' last four World Series championship rosters, Pettitte said that he hopes the aftermath of the Mitchell Report will not change the way in which he is perceived.
"I hope that people still look at me the same," Pettitte said. "I know a lot of people won't. But as far as historically, Andy Pettitte is just thankful to be in the New York Yankees organization and with the Houston Astros for three years, and to play with the guys that I played with. All I ever tried to do was just be a blessing and be a positive influence."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.