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12/11/08 7:27 PM EST

Cashman flies to Texas, meets Pettitte

Yankees interested in having left-hander return next season

LAS VEGAS -- For the second time in three days, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman flew out of McCarran International Airport to meet with a left-handed free agent.

This one, Cashman knew a little bit better.

Cashman detoured from his eventual destination of New York after the conclusion of the Winter Meetings on Thursday, heading to Texas to speak face-to-face with Andy Pettitte, as first reported by the New York Post.

The Yankees have maintained interest in re-signing the 36-year-old Pettitte, who was 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA in 33 starts last season, but progress has been hindered over a salary debate of about $6 million.

Pettitte rejected a one-year, $10 million offer from the Yankees last month, and his agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks, have pushed for Pettitte to make the $16 million annually he earned in each of the past two seasons.

The Yankees went as far to decline to offer arbitration to Pettitte, because if he accepted, his salary would be determined by an independent third party, with a maximum pay cut of 20 percent.

There was little reason to believe the arbitrator would award that, and even if it was, the resulting number would be $12.8 million -- more than the Yankees would like to pay.

The red flag is Pettitte's second half, when he appeared to tire and was just 4-7 with a 5.35 ERA in 13 starts as the Yankees gasped at long playoff odds. Still, manager Joe Girardi said that he believes Pettitte will be in his rotation come Opening Day.

"I've just had that feeling all along that he'll be a Yankee next year," Girardi said. "Maybe that's because that's what I'm used to seeing. Andy is a Yankee, and that's part of it. But I just have that feeling that he'll be a Yankee next year."

The Yankees are aware that Pettitte is interested in pitching for them and in the new Yankee Stadium set to open in April, and discussion of him joining another club like the Dodgers or Red Sox is unlikely.

Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said he spoke to Pettitte about the possibility of pitching for the Dodgers, but does not expect it to happen.

"Just from talking to him, I know the Yankees are his first choice," Torre said. "I wasn't about to talk him out of it, knowing Andy like I do."

But the Yankees, who obtained CC Sabathia after Cashman flew to the San Francisco area for a late-night meeting on Tuesday, have other options.

New York has reportedly made a five-year offer between $80-85 million to A.J. Burnett, and also could sign Derek Lowe to a four-year deal worth $60-64 million. As a backup plan to Pettitte, the Yankees have also considered giving Ben Sheets a two-year deal worth approximately $13 million per season.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.