Pettitte returns to the mound
Yankees veteran came back after retiring following '10 season
Andy Pettitte is back where he thought he'd never be -- in pinstripes and on the mound.
When he walked off the Yankee Stadium field on Oct. 18, 2010, he was sure he wouldn't be back. He made a formal retirement announcement on Feb. 5, 2011.
Fast forward to May 13, 2012, in Yankee Stadium. Pettitte, beginning his 17th season and 14th with the Yankees, made his formal unretirement. He allowed a pair of two-run homers and left to an ovation with one out in the seventh inning of a 4-1 loss to Seattle.
"It felt like I never left. I feel like I'll get stronger over the next couple of months," Pettitte told reporters afterward. "I feel like I'll be able to say [whether] this is a success or not in October."
Pettitte's big league career would have ended with his losing Game 3 of the 2010 American League Championship Series to the Rangers.
"The desire was gone," Pettitte, who turns 40 on June 15, said late in extended Spring Training. "You know it's gone when you're not working out. I said I was retiring, I thought that was it. I said I'd be too embarrassed to come back. You're really in no condition to say, 'I can do this again.' I was in complete shutdown mode.
"But once I started working out again and stuff like that, I figured out I could deal with a few days of embarrassment and get over it. I didn't want to end up maybe 10 years down the road wishing I'd given it one more try."
Andy and Laura Pettitte and their four children spent as much time at their South Texas ranch as they could between seasons. Last year "was one of the few summer vacations I've had," he said.
"I did all the things I wanted to do when I retired." That included time with his boys' baseball teams, "not coaching, just helping out ... trying to encourage them to stay positive. They probably got sick of me telling them to stay positive all the time."
There also was a lot of golf, a lot of time working with his church and a lot of time with his family.
"No doubt when I retired they were happy," Pettitte said. "I was going to be home because I'd been gone for so long. But when you're able to spend a year at home it's like, 'OK, Dad, it was great. You're here. We got to spend a lot of time with you, but ...'"
The kids had their own stuff to do, he said, "and the bottom line is, this is all they ever knew -- Dad being gone and playing baseball."
So, unretiring was not a problem in the Pettitte household.
"My family is totally behind this," he said. "When my wife's behind it, when my family's behind it, I feel like I can do anything."
When Yankees general manager Brian Cashman publicly expressed an interest in getting Pettitte to return, Pettitte quietly began working out. In December, Cashman made him an offer. Pettitte said he'd have to work out for six weeks to see if he could do it. Cashman didn't want to wait that long.
In January, New York added pitchers Michael Pineda in a trade from Seattle and free agent Hiroki Kuroda.
"[Cashman] told me I could stop working out," Pettitte said. "I looked at my wife and I was like, 'I love working out,' and she was like, 'Well, keep working out.'"
In February, Pettitte reported to Spring Training as a special instructor. On March 10, he pitched batting practice before a game. Six days later, Pettitte signed a contract, then pitched his way up through the Minors before being added to the Yankees' roster.
The three-time All-Star led the American League with 21 wins in 1996, finished a close second in that year's Cy Young Award vote and was the MVP of the 2001 ALCS. If he strikes out 134 batters this season, he'll pass Whitey Ford's career Yankees record of 1,956.
"I don't think I have anything to prove," Pettitte said. "What I want to do is help us win another championship."
Bruce Lowitt is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.