12/04/07 1:20 AM ET
Pettitte to pitch for Yankees in '08
Agent Hendricks has informed club that left-hander will return
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
The 35-year-old left-hander has decided to put off retirement for at least one more year, returning to pitch for the Yankees.
The Houston Chronicle first reported that Pettitte began telling current teammates over the weekend that he was going to return. Pettitte's agent, Randy Hendricks, then conveyed that to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, Cashman would not comment on Pettitte's situation, as he remains a free agent who has not yet been placed under contract.
"Players such as [Derek] Jeter and [Jorge] Posada told him how much they needed him back, as did Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi," Hendricks told The Associated Press. "Andy decided this weekend that he didn't want to keep the Yankees on hold as they sought to determine their team for next year."
Pettitte had a $16 million player option to pitch in 2008, but turned it down in November, assuring the Yankees that he would either pitch for New York or retire.
Standing in the way of Pettitte's decision were several commitments he had at home in the Houston area, and Pettitte spoke numerous times late in the season about needing to think about what his responsibilities should be "as a husband and as a father."
The Yankees, meanwhile, never wavered from saying that they would love to have Pettitte back. The veteran went 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 2007, and served as a stalwart on the club, especially early in the year when the Yankees were besieged by injuries to their starting rotation and forced to summon numerous rookies from the Minor Leagues.
Hendricks said recently that if indeed Pettitte decided to pitch in 2008, he was confident an agreement could be worked out with the Yankees "within 24 hours." The team had left a standing $16 million invitation on the table for Pettitte, which it appears he will accept.
Pettitte's 13-year career record is 201-113 with a 3.83 ERA.
If indeed Pettitte returns, this will mark the second consecutive season that he has put off thoughts of retirement. Pettitte's Bronx reprise was sparked after the 2006 season when, having completed a third season pitching for the Astros, Pettitte attended a reunion of the 1996 World Series-champion Yankees in New York.
Spurred on by Jeter and then-manager Joe Torre, among others, Pettitte was gradually convinced to return to the Yankees -- for whom he had pitched from 1995 through 2003, winning four World Series -- on a one-year contract.
The Yankees were willing to offer more years at the time, but Pettitte said he did not want to feel pressured to return in 2008 if his performance was not up to par. Yet that was not a difficulty, and Pettitte spoke often with pleasure concerning just how good his surgically repaired pitching arm was feeling late in the season.
News of Pettitte's return coincides with senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner's spoken deadline insisting that the Minnesota Twins reach a decision on whether they will accept the Yankees' three-player pitch for another left-hander, two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.
Steinbrenner said Sunday that the days of allowing the Yankees to be pitted against the Red Sox to drive up players' market values are over. Though there has been no exact time placed to demand a decision, the Twins are believed to be pondering a trade offer of right-hander Phil Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera and a prospect, possibly shortstop Alberto Gonzalez or right-hander Alan Horne.
"I'm not going to be played against the Red Sox. That's not something I'll do. That's not something the Yankees should ever do, and that's what I think what they're trying to do now," Steinbrenner told the AP. "So if they want the best offer that has been offered to them, then they need to make up their minds."
With Pettitte's expected return and a Santana decision looming, the Yankees would have otherwise had a staff of all right-handed starters for 2008: 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang is set to return, and rookie standout Joba Chamberlain is set to join Hughes and right-hander Mike Mussina in the rotation.
Pettitte's deal could mean that right-hander Ian Kennedy, a first-round pick who started three September games for New York before suffering a season-ending back strain, may begin the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.