- Associated Press - Friday, February 4, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Andy Pettitte kept putting off a final decision, until his wife told him in late January that it was time.

“I was starting to get a little irritable,” he said. “And so she basically booted me and said, ‘Go figure this out.’”

So he drove four hours from his home in Deer Park, Texas, to his ranch near the Mexican border.

“I’m going to play,” he remembered thinking. “The fans, the Yankees need me to play. I’m going to play. My wife supports it. My kids support it.”

And then he thought some more.

“When I digged deep down in and I did some soul-searching _ I don’t even know how to explain,” he said. “It wasn’t there. It wasn’t there like I wanted it to be there.”

He returned home, then took his family to the ranch, waiting to make sure there was no more wavering. On Tuesday night, he called Brian Cashman to give the general manager the verdict: One of the most accomplished pitching careers in Yankees history was over. Pettitte was retiring after 16 major league seasons, 13 in pinstripes and five of those ending with World Series titles.

With his wife, Laura, sitting by his side in the Yankee Stadium press room, Pettitte spent nearly two hours Friday talking in his Texas twang about the pressure he felt to return, of a “tremendous obligation” he felt after Cliff Lee spurned the Yankees for Philadelphia. Just like the fans, the left-hander knows his retirement leaves New York with a rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, ? & ?

At 38, his hair around the temples is gray and white. His back, elbow and groin ached during the season, but his 11-3 record was sufficient proof he could deal with it.

The fire, however, to compete from April through October had vanished, a realization that grew on him during the two months he spent on the disabled list with a leg injury last summer.

“I didn’t want to come back and be bad,” he said.

Pettitte said he told Cashman on Jan. 9 that he would seriously consider one more season. But as the time neared when he would have to pack for spring training, Pettitte couldn’t bring himself to leave.

He nearly retired after 2008, but he wanted to pitch at new Yankee Stadium.

He almost retired after 2009, but he felt compelled to defend the World Series title.

“I’m ready to go pitch in spring training right now if I had to. My arm feels great. My body feels great. Been working out extremely hard for about the last 3 1/2 weeks, and I know that my body would get to where it needs to be,” he said. “But my heart’s not where it needs to be.”

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