TAMPA, Fla. (WFAN/AP) — Derek Jeter sensed Andy Pettitte wanted to pitch again.
Three months shy of his 40th birthday, Pettitte ended his retirement Friday after little more than a year away from the game. The left-hander signed a minor league deal with the Yankees with an invitation to spring training.
“I knew he was itching … thinking about it, but a lot of people say that,” Jeter said before Saturday’s game against Houston.
The New York shortstop was somewhat surprised Pettitte decided to come back after not pitching last season.
“He retired, mainly, because he wanted to spend time with his family, but maybe momma got tired of him a little bit,” Jeter said with a smile. “He didn’t talk about it at all last year, and then he started talking about it this year.”
If Pettitte’s comeback is successful and he’s added to the major league roster, he would get a $2.5 million, one-year contract.
Pettitte said during a conference call Friday his desire to work is back. He has pitched in the majors for 16 seasons, 13 with the Yankees.
“It’s great,” Jeter said. “He’ll add to our team on the field, off the field. Andy’s just a good person.”
Pettitte is not expected be ready to break camp with the team when spring training ends early next month. He has been throwing off a mound.
“One thing with Andy is, he works extremely hard,” Jeter said. “It’s obvious that he’s been working out. It’s not like he’s coming off the couch.”
Pettitte, part of a winning championship core along with Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, last played in 2010, when he went 11-3 and was an All-Star.
“I always say the same thing about guys like Jete and Posada and Mo, their performance on the field completely makes you overlook the impact they make in the clubhouse,” New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. “The culture that we have here, guys like Andy is such a huge part of that. He did miss it and I know we missed him. We’re very happy to have him back.”
Pettitte is 240-138 with the Yankees and Houston, and has gone 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 42 postseason starts.
“What an amazing guy,” Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said. “What an amazing sports figure. What an exciting moment for everybody in his locker room and also the Yankee universe in general.”
Pettitte is scheduled to join the Yankees on Tuesday and throw off a bullpen mound.
“It’s wonderful,” Rivera said. “He can help us. A leader. Be there for many others.”
Even without Pettitte, New York had four starters looking to fill three rotation spots behind opening day pitcher CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Michael Pineda are competing for open slots.
“Playing with the Yankees, nothing surprises me,” Garcia said. “I’m still doing my stuff. I’m here to pitch. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Garcia’s bruised right hand still has some swelling, but he is set to resume playing catch. The right-hander took a grounder off the hand last Wednesday against Toronto and will miss his next turn Monday.
CBS’s Jon Heyman believes that the Yankees will have difficulty trading Garcia because of his $4 million dollar contract and that Garcia can refuse any trade before June 16th.
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