Andy Pettitte was not wrestling with anything this afternoon. He was not debating or wondering, and as he talked about his retirement decision, it seemed his greatest emotion was relief. His previous retirement came after an offseason of lengthy consideration. This one came after a long season of acceptance.
“Mentally and physically, I’m just done,” Pettitte said. “I pitched knowing that this was going to be it. It’s been a long hard year, and I can’t be happier with my decision. I’ve been retired and I know what it’s going to be like, and it’s awesome. And I love it. There’s no surprise here for me. I’m not wondering what it’s going to be like. It’s great, and I’m looking forward to it.”
While Pettitte spoke, Mariano Rivera entered the press conference room and stood along the wall, smiling at his old friend.
“Me and Mo spent a lot of time talking this year,” Pettitte said. “And I believe that he is done and he’s at a great place in his life. When we talk about, I can’t tell him anything negative about retirement. I told him he’s going to love it. It’s going to be wonderful.”
There was something fitting about Rivera sitting in that room, with Pettitte behind the microphone, while Derek Jeter is on the disabled list and Jorge Posada is presumably sitting at home. We’ve all known for quite some time that a Yankees era is coming to an end. Now it seems that in two weeks it will have ended. Jeter’s expected back, but this group no longer defines the Yankees.
And Pettitte acknowledged that such a reality played a role in his decision.
“I feel like I’ve had my run here,” Pettitte said. “The group, we’ve kind of had our run. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be pulling for this organization and hopefully, in some capacity, be around and want nothing but the best for this organization and hope it continues to move forward and win many more championship. But it just feels right, like my time here is done. My run is over.”
Why not take a few weeks after the season to make sure?
“Because I don’t need to. I don’t. Like I said, I know I’m done. I knew it coming in. There was nothing this season, going through this season, that has changed my mind. I prayed about it. I feel great about it. I don’t make rash decisions. I don’t feel like I made a rash decision when I retired the first time. If Cash would have never called me and asked if I’d consider (coming back), I would have never done it.”
“It has to be winning that first championship in ’96. That’s what you dream of as a kid, it’s what you play for. That’s definitely has to be right up there with it. And it was pretty special in ’09, to be able to win that championship here at a new ballpark, that first year at an age where I think a lot of people maybe didn’t think we’d be able to pull it off. That one was very gratifying, to be able to do that.”
“As far as regrets, I really can’t say that I do. I guess we’re sitting here talking and not that I even want to bring this up but you ask about regrets and the whole stuff that I guess happened with the HGH incident. When you ask me that, you want to say obviously you regret that that got out. I think everybody knows, any kids that ever watched me handle that situation would know that, you never think that was the right thing to do or anything like that. I know my heart and I’ll tell you, I’ve never tried to cheat this game. I’ve never tried to do anything to cheat this game. I’ve never tried to cheat anything in my life. And, you know, I’ve kind of danced around that a little bit over the last five or six years, but that’s the truth.”
How to be remembered?
“I hope just as a great teammate and someone that just took the ball every fifth day and gave it everything I got. That’s one thing I can say is, I never took this game for granted. I never didn’t work, I don’t feel like, the way that I should to prepare. I just, whenever I was here, I was all in. I’ve tried to do that the last few years being back here. It’s been tough with the family being in Texas and going back and forth. It’s been crazy flying across the country on the off days and trying to get home to see them, but I hope those are the things the guys will remember me for.”
Hall of Fame?
“I don’t think about the Hall of Fame unless someone asks me. I don’t. I’m very, very thankful and blessed that people will even bring up my name in that conversation. I feel fortunate and blessed to have played with the great players I’ve played with – I’ve had the success I’ve had because so many great players have been around me. Do I feel like I dominated this sport as a pitcher? No. I don’t. Every outing, for me, I feel like, has been an absolute grind, to tell you the truth. When I look at lineups of teams I’m facing, it seems like every hitter’s hitting .300 off me, you know. For people to bring that up and for me to know there’s even a chance at that, it’s just an honor and a blessing to me and I’m not worried about that. … When I think of dominance and think of guys who have dominated, I think of our closer. Those guys, him, Jeet, for me, they are first- ballot HOFers and they make the game look easy and it ain’t easy.”
• Obviously a fairly significant lineup change with Ichiro Suzuki moving into the leadoff spot. He’s the most Brett Gardner-like hitter available, and the Yankees seem to have really missed Gardner in the last week or so. “Gardy was a pretty traditional leadoff hitter, and he was swinging the bat really, really well when he got hurt,” Girardi said. “It seemed like he led off every night with a double and we’d get a run early and then we would score more. Ichiro has probably had the most experience as a leadoff hitter. He’s seen Lincecum a few times. We have not seen this guy much. He’s seen him three times in the last two years, so I thought I’d put him there. He’s got some speed, and hopefully he can create some stuff.”
• A side effect of Ichiro in the top spot is that it moves Curtis Granderson into more of a run-producing spot in the order. “Grandy’s been hitting some home runs, so maybe you drop him in the order a little bit with some of the guys that have been on base, and maybe they become two- and three-run homers instead of solo shots,” Girardi said. “That was my thought.”
• Boone Logan is available tonight. “I have not been told anything different,” Girardi said. “He felt good yesterday.”
• On keeping Chris Stewart on the bench and going with the rookie J.R. Murphy again: “We’ve got a quick turnaround,” Girardi said. “We got in late last night. Physically, I just think it’s too hard.” It’s also worth noting that Murphy caught CC Sabathia last time, so there’s a connection there.
• With the playoffs feeling like such a long shot, how do the Yankees keep these final nine games from being nothing more than the Pettitte and Rivera Farewell Tour? “I know that Andy won’t let it become a farewell tour,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s not what he wanted. As he said, we had to talk to him a little bit about this (announcement). That we thought it was important for him, because Andy understands what the fans of New York have meant to his life, to his family’s life, and what the organization has meant, and he wanted to say thank you, and we all thought this was the proper way. But I’m sure Andy’s right in the video room right now. Or he’s stretching, playing his catch or doing his flat ground before he’s going to pitch on Sunday, so it won’t get in his way. I think most of the guys had a pretty good inkling he was going to retire, so it’s not a shock.”
• Have the Yankees moved on after the letdown in Toronto? “Every day is a new day,” Girardi said. “You have to learn how to do that in this business. That’s justhow you were trained because you do it day after day after day, year after year after year. Obviously we have made the battle tougher because we did not finish the road trip like we started and we need help from other teams. The only thing we can do is control what we do. For us to reach the playoffs, we’re going to have to play better.”
Associated Press photos