Andy Pettitte knew this would be his final season, and it didn’t matter what the schedule said. He wasn’t looking for any sort of perfect-circle closure; didn’t need an end-of-the-year trip to Texas for things to feel complete. Even when he saw that the Yankees were closing the regular season in Houston — close enough to his home that Pettitte’s staying at his own house for this series — Pettitte saw it as practically meaningless.
“I just assumed that I wouldn’t be pitching here because I thought we’d make the playoffs and I figured that I wouldn’t be making a start here,” he said.
Instead of preparing for the postseason, the Yankees have a situation somewhat similar to Thursday: A perfectly meaningless game, with one especially meaningful element. It’s the final start of Pettitte’s career, and it’s going to happen in front of basically his entire family and his closest friends.
Last start will be more emotional or enjoyable?
“I think it’ll be enjoyable for sure. I think it’s going to be emotional. I’m not real sure what to expect to tell you the truth. There’s no doubt when I get out of the game it’s going to be sad because I know that’s it. The last game at (Yankee Stadium), I was of course sad after knowing it was my last game there. But like I told you all in the press conference, I had to win that game. I felt like I blew it. So I had all that going through my mind in that one. It wasn’t just solely focused on, this is it. So, I’m not exactly sure how it’ll be for me (tonight).”
Been bracing for the emotional part?
“I’m going to let whatever happens happens. … When I’m doing all my work now, when I’m doing my early running that I love to do and stuff like that, there’s a lot of stuff going through my head as far as all the stuff we’ve been through, all the good times, all the bad times. That’s definitely one thing that’s going on as I’ve been going through the last week, for sure.”
Hard to pitch with nothing on the line?
“I think knowing that this is my last start, and being here, it’s important to me. So I think it will be easy for me. Other than that, I can’t tell you (what it will be like). I don’t have a lot of meaningless starts in my career. I take it so serious. I want to pitch well, and I want to be prepared, so I don’t think that it will be hard. As a competitor, you know that you could go out there and give up seven or eight runs. Obviously that’s embarrassing. You don’t want to do that, so I’ll definitely try to prepare the best I can for it.”
How do you look back at the Houston years?
“Obviously it didn’t work out as far as the Yankees bringing me back. I had an opportunity to go to several other teams for a lot more money and it was, if I wasn’t going to go back to the Yankees, I wanted to come home, and hopefully, maybe able to do something special here. And I did look at this club and see the arms that they had — because really that’s all I was concerned with was the pitching staff — and I knew they had a few guys that were horses, and I felt that if you added me to that that we would maybe have a chance to get to the postseason. … They never won a postseason series (before). I believe we were the first. And to, in ’05, help take them to a World Series, it was remarkable because every night here it was very exciting. It was cool to feel like you’d brought some energy in baseball to the city. So that was definitely a good run we had for three years.”
Regret about not staying with the Yankees throughout?
“There’s not just because I just felt like, it didn’t work out. It was a time and a place where I understood, the Yankees had known that my elbow had been bothering me for a long time and I had been pitching with it, and I understand. But you know me. I believe God works everything out. I think I’ve told you, I had a very dear friend of mine die of cancer that year, and I just feel like everything worked out for a reason. I was able to be here with him when he passed away. It was like my second dad, so just the way everything plays into it, I just feel like God just worked everything out perfect for me.”
Which Yankees teammates were most influential?
“It’s kind of gone in stages. When I first came up, Jimmy Key, my first year, because he was who I wanted to be. I was in Triple-A watching. When he pitched, I was watching his game instead of watching our Triple-A game so I could try to see how he was getting guys out. Then it moved from him to Kenny Rogers, who was a close friend of mine. Then when Roger came over, obviously he made a huge impact on my career. Just so many people. I think of, like, Scott Brosius. There’s so many names. John Wetteland my first year was always there for me. Then past that, when I came over here to the Astros, I felt like it was me trying to impact and push everybody else.
“But there’s still the guys that you’re still kind of intertwined with that you kind of feel like you feed off each other. Obviously, for me here, (CC Sabathia) is just a huge guy for me now and a big reason for why I’ve always wanted to come back and pitch on the staff with him. The competitor that he is, and Hiro, these are guys that, if they weren’t here, it would kind of make my decisions a little bit tougher as far as when I think about coming back.”
Associated Press photos