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Pettitte set to announce retirement Friday

Andy Pettitte delivers a pitch during an ALCS

Andy Pettitte delivers a pitch during an ALCS game against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 18, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

After the Yankees were eliminated in Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS, Andy Pettitte talked about his plans for 2011.

"The only thing I know right now is I love taking the mound every fifth day," he said. "Unfortunately, there's a lot of other stuff at this point, at this stage of my life, I don't like about baseball. Obviously, it just has to do with the family. I'll just go home, let this settle in and try not to think about this for a little while and just figure out what I want to do.''

The 38-year-old lefthander, finally ready to announce a decision yesterday, informed the Yankees he is calling it a career. Pettitte, baseball's all-time leader in postseason victories (19), flew to New York yesterday afternoon and is scheduled to make his announcement official Friday morning at the Stadium.

His decision, which the Yankees did not try to talk him out of, is another blow to the team's rotation, the first being when Cliff Lee chose to pitch for the Phillies.

Even with Pettitte, the rotation had question marks; now the hole he leaves is gaping. As of now, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre follow CC Sabathia.

General manager Brian Cashman, who did not return a call but is expected to attend today's news conference, said all winter he assumed Pettitte wasn't going to pitch in 2011. He brought in Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in the last week on minor-league contracts to compete for a rotation spot.

But although Pettitte had said he was leaning toward retirement, there was hope within the organization that he would return for a 17th season. After all, Pettitte had vacillated in previous years and decided to return each time. Hope increased when he recently began throwing at his home in Deer Park, Texas.

Pettitte became the first member of the Core Four, which led the Yankees to four titles in five seasons from 1996-2000, to retire. Two of those members, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, signed new contracts this offseason. The fourth, Jorge Posada - entering the final year of his contract - was told he likely will be the designated hitter instead of the starting catcher.

"I'm really sad that Andy is going to retire,'' said Posada, who caught Pettitte from 1995-2003 and 2007-10. "He was so much more than a teammate to me - he was one of my closest friends. I admire everything that he has accomplished as a Yankee, but Andy was someone who always put the team first. I'm going to miss him deeply."

Pettitte finishes his career 240-138 with a 3.88 ERA in 16 seasons - 13 with the Yankees - and likely will be remembered for his performances when the pressure was most intense. He went 19-10 in the postseason, winning all three series-clinching games in the Yankees' run to the 2009 World Series title.

His 203 victories as a Yankee trail only Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231).

Pettitte was off to the best start of his career in 2010 - 11-2 with a 2.70 ERA - before suffering a groin injury in his first start after the All-Star break. It cost him nine weeks of the season, and he finished 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA. He then beat the Twins in Game 2 of the ALDS and lost Game 3 of the ALCS to Lee and the Rangers.

After the season, manager Joe Girardi disclosed that Pettitte might not have been able to start a Game 7 against the Rangers because of a back injury.

Pettitte will not disappear from the news completely, though his return to the headlines won't be flattering. The pitcher admitted to using HGH after being named in the Mitchell Report in 2007 and is expected to be the star witness in the perjury trial of Roger Clemens, once among his closest friends, which is scheduled for July. Pettitte told Congress in a 2008 deposition that Clemens had spoken of his own HGH use.

Toward the end of the season, Pettitte told Newsday the prospect of being a witness would have no impact on his decision.

Instead - he said then and at other times when asked about it - his decision would come down to family. He and his wife, Laura, have three sons and a daughter.

"Those off-days get hard, trying to fly home to see your family for a day, 24 hours. That's a tough deal," Pettitte said in October. "The kids are getting to an age where I want to be home."

After this morning's news conference, Pettitte will head there, presumably for good.

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