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Yankees LHP Pettitte to retire after season

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NEW YORK (AP) - Andy Pettitte had no interest in a farewell tour or some big pronouncement regarding his (second) retirement. Anything more than a conference call the day after the season would only feel embarrassing.

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``Because I've done this before,'' said a sheepish Pettitte, who briefly stepped away from baseball two years ago. ``I feel awkward doing this right now, to tell you the truth.''

Still, the New York Yankees pitcher was having a hard time telling people he wasn't sure if he would be back next season when he already knew this was it. And he wanted to thank fans for all their support, something he wished he had a chance to do the first time.

So after discussing it with several close friends - including Mariano Rivera over lunch in Toronto - Pettitte chose to formally announce his decision at a Yankee Stadium news conference Friday.

``I'm ready to be home again,'' Pettitte said. ``But the biggest thing is, I'm just done.''

In a statement released Friday afternoon, hours before the Yankees began their final homestand, the 41-year-old Pettitte said he has reached the point where he knows he has left everything he has on the field.

The left-hander initially retired after the 2010 season, but sat out only one year before returning to the Yankees.

This time, he means it.

``The time is right. I've exhausted myself, mentally and physically, and that's exactly how I want to leave this game,'' he said.

In a nice bit of symmetry, Pettitte is scheduled to make two more starts this season - one at Yankee Stadium and the other in his hometown of Houston.

``That is crazy. It really is. It's cool that it's going to work out that way,'' he said.

Pettitte is set to pitch against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, when the Yankees will honor Rivera in a pregame ceremony. Baseball's career saves leader also is retiring.

Pettitte said one of the things he struggled with in making an announcement was ``doing anything to take away from Mariano's day'' because of how much Rivera has meant to him and his career.

Rivera, however, encouraged Pettitte to say goodbye at Yankee Stadium.

``He thinks it's going to make the day even better,'' Pettitte said. ``I feel like we're connected.''

Rivera has saved 72 of Pettitte's 255 career wins, the most for any tandem in major league history.

``It's like brothers. We came up in this organization at the same time. We've been through good times and bad times,'' Rivera said. ``Now we go out together, too.''

Asked if he had any regrets, Pettitte mentioned human growth hormone. He has admitted using the banned substance years ago, saying he did it in an effort to recover faster from an injury.

He said he would never want kids to think he tried to cheat.

``I know my heart. I've never tried to cheat this game. Never tried to cheat anything in my life,'' Pettitte said. ``That's the truth.''

Pettitte holds MLB records for postseason wins (19) and starts (44), but it would take quite a surge by the Yankees for him to get an opportunity to add to those marks. They began the day 3 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay and Texas for the second AL wild card, with three other teams in between.

A three-time All-Star, Pettitte has helped New York to seven AL pennants and five World Series championships during 15 seasons in pinstripes. He was the MVP of the 2001 AL championship series and is the franchise leader in career strikeouts with 2,009.

He joined longtime buddies Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada to make up the ``Core Four'' that has led the Yankees to more than a decade and a half of sustained success.

``We've had a great run here,'' Pettitte said. ``I just feel like my time here is done.''

Jeter, limited by injuries to just 17 games this season, will be the only one left next year.

``I've known about this for a while, but I just haven't thought about it,'' he said. ``You're not going to see that again, I don't think.''

Pettitte said he probably wouldn't have made a comeback last year if general manager Brian Cashman hadn't called to gauge his interest. The original plan was to return for one season, but a broken ankle that sidelined Pettitte for almost three months changed his mind.

He knew coming into 2013 that this would be it, and nothing that's happened since has made him vacillate - including a back injury that wasn't easy to shake.

Pettitte is 10-10 with a 3.93 ERA in 28 starts. After a rough patch, he has pitched particularly well down the stretch with New York desperately chasing a playoff berth.

``Vintage Andy Pettitte. Crunch time, he's always there,'' manager Joe Girardi said. ``It's just who Andy Pettitte is. When the stakes get higher, he gets better.''

Asked for his greatest moment, Pettitte mentioned the first championship he won with the Yankees in 1996 - which ended an 18-year drought for the franchise.

His final start is scheduled for next weekend against Houston, the only team for which he has played besides the Yankees. Pettitte spent 2004-06 with the Astros, teaming with Roger Clemens to help the club make its only World Series appearance in 2005.

In retirement, Pettitte said he will spend time with his wife and four children, travel and get very involved at church again.

``It's been a long, hard year,'' he said. ``I've been retired and I know what it's going to be like. It's awesome.''

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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