Andy Pettitte, content to retire quietly, steps away from game
Going into this season, Andy Pettitte knew he would not pitch next season. He was fine with a simple announcement over a conference call shortly after the season ended.
“I really knew coming in that I was almost a hundred percent [done] coming into the season that this was going to be it,” Pettitte said. “When I decided to come back, last year was supposed to be for one year. That was the whole plan all along and obviously breaking my leg put a little wrinkle in that, so just coming into the season I knew that this was probably going to be it. There was nothing that went on during the season that was changing my mind.”
About halfway through the season, he alerted manager Joe Girardi and then gradually told some of his teammates but getting besieged with questions about his future also influenced Pettitte’s decision make it official.
The Yankees were aware of Pettitte’s intentions beyond this year but encouraged him to announce it before the end of the season as a way to enjoy the appreciation of the fans while also thanking them.
Pettitte did not want to overshadow Mariano Rivera’s retirement. However, over lunch in Toronto this week, he was influenced by the greatest closer of all time to announce it before the season ended, so that fans could express their appreciation. Pettitte made it officia with an announcement Friday afternoon before the Yankees opened a three-game series with the Giants.
“He all along told me you got to announce it, you got to say something and that’s just not how I wanted to do it,” Pettitte said. “We talked about it and he was just so supportive of it and told me I had to announce it and that I should and that he thinks it’s going to make the day even better. To hear him say that and to feel that way about it, I feel like we’re connected.
“I really just planned on announcing it the day after the season was over and just having a conference call because I’ve already done this. But everyone was pretty adamant, especially after talking to me that this is the way I should do it.”
Pettitte will have two more regular-season starts. He will pitch Sunday, which also is when the Yankees are honoring Rivera in a pregame ceremony, and then next weekend in Houston where he pitched for three seasons (2004-2006).
“Obviously the Yankees and the organization and the guys in that room are losing a great teammate and a great competitor,” Girardi said. “I can think of so many times that the competitiveness of Andy Pettitte has come out in what he’s done. He’s been a great example for everyone around him.”
The last time Pettitte was in the Yankee Stadium interview room to announce his retirement was Feb. 4, 2011 after waiting deep into the winter to decide. A year later during spring training, general manager Brian Cashman called Pettitte to gauge his interest and he returned for an 18th season.
This time there was no uncertainty.
“Like I said I know I’m done,” Pettitte said. “I knew it coming in and there was nothing through the season that changed my mind. I prayed about it. I feel great about it. I don’t make rash decisions and I don’t feel like I made a rash decision when I retired the first time.”
Like Rivera, 2012 was supposed to be his last but injury derailed those plans. Pettitte missed nearly three months with a broken leg but pitched effectively down the stretch and wanted to come back for one more opportunity at the postseason.
Reports began surfacing Friday morning that Pettitte would retire for a second time.
During a 25-minute press conference Friday afternoon, Pettitte formally addressed the reasons why he was retiring, notably saying how every one of his 573 postseason and regular season starts has been a grind and that included the preparation.
Pettitte will end his career with at least 255 regular season wins and his 19 wins in the postseason are the most of anyone. His career also will be remembered by some for his 2007 admission of using human growth hormone during the 2002 season to heal an elbow injury quicker. Pettitte reiterated Friday how much he regretted that decision.
“I’ve never tried to cheat this game. I’ve never tried to do anything to cheat this game,” he said. “I’ve never tried to cheat anything in my life and we kind of danced around it a little bit over the last five or six years but that’s the truth. I hate that if any young person thinks if I was trying do something to cheat this game or to cheat other players – that would be one thing [I regret].”
Pettitte’s plans for retirement include spending time with his family and getting involved with his church, but in five years his name will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. That has already sparked some debate but regardless of whether he ever gets in, Pettitte seemed to cherish the years he spent and the game he won since getting that first win June 7, 1995 against Oakland.
“I am very thankful and blessed that people would even bring up my name in that conversation,” Pettitte said. “I feel very fortunate and very blessed to be able to play with the great players that I’ve played with and have the success that I’ve had.
“Every outing for me has been an absolute grind, to tell you the truth. When I look at lineups and teams that I’m facing it seems like every hitter is hitting .300 off me and for people to bring that up, for me to know that there’s even a chance of that, is just an honor and a blessing for me.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.