Yankees aren't expecting Pettitte to pitch

Yankees aren't expecting Pettitte to pitch

Yankees aren't expecting Pettitte to pitch
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Brian Cashman still has Andy Pettitte's phone number. But the Yankees general manager has taken the southpaw off speed dial.

Cashman may have provided the strongest piece of evidence to date that Pettitte will not pitch in 2011 when he told reporters on Wednesday that Pettitte "is choosing at this stage to not start 2011," and then later clarified his statement, saying he used "a poor of choice of words" in that he meant to say "play" or "pitch" instead of "start," which was believed to mean the start of the season.

Nevertheless, Pettitte's indecision about a formal resolution with Spring Training a month away has been holding Yankees fans hostage. Barring acquisitions, Pettitte's absence would leave the Yankees with two openings in their rotation.

"Right now, he's still saying, 'Don't count on me.' That's not something new, and it's all the information we have," Cashman said Wednesday, when he took time from a busy round of sessions during Major League Baseball's quarterly Owners Meetings to discuss the Yankees' biggest question mark for the coming season.

"Andy's been very communicative [with me] on this issue. Right now, he's not playing. If he decides to play, it will be for us. He's a Yankee, from start to finish. I don't think he's determined whether he's officially finished, but is choosing at this stage to not start 2011.

"If that ever changes, he will call us. I'm certainly not going to hound him or bother him."

Pettitte, 38, went 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA last season, his 16th, and could be the second Yankees pitcher in three years to retire following a strong performance. Right-hander Mike Mussina retired after going 20-9 in 2008.

"This is something that has tugged at Andy every year, and it's tugging at him even more now. We certainly understand: Family is important to him, being home is important to him. And we respect that more than anything," Cashman said.

"I've talked to him enough. [The current stalemate] is not from a lack of conversation between us. He's been real courteous. He cares greatly about this franchise and the direction in which we're going.

"But you've got to be all-in, especially when you play in the American League East. If it takes him some time to get all-in, I respect that. If it never happens, I'll also respect that."

Cashman made it plain that he is not sitting around waiting for Pettitte to make a firm call. He's keeping his nose pressed to the grindstone of the market.

"I'm actively out there, but it's a very thin market that we're playing in now," he said. "We continue to explore free agents and trades. But we have to be patient, and we may end up having to rely on our strong farm system sooner than we expected."

New York's current rotation includes CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, both coming off strong seasons, and A.J. Burnett, tasked with rebounding from one of the poorest seasons ever for a full-time Yankees starter.

The other two-fifths of the 2010 rotation that carried the Yanks into the playoffs, and to within one game of the division champion Tampa Bay Rays, were Javier Vazquez, who has gone to Florida as a free agent, and Pettitte.

"We could use some," Cashman said when asked about starting pitchers.

Well, there is one veteran left-hander a few hundred miles away in Texas, but very close to the Yankees' hearts. But as pages fall off the calendar, Cashman acknowledged the lessening chances of Pettitte being in Tampa, Fla., when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 15.

"Right now, he isn't someone we're focused on," Cashman reiterated. "You can't compel someone to do something their heart is not in it. It's got to be something that comes from within. To me, he is not in play. He's leaning toward being home, and if that ever changes, he knows where to find us."

Cashman did say the concept of Pettitte pitching less than a full season, as did Roger Clemens with his midseason returns at the end of his career, has not come up.

"He hasn't told me anything like he doesn't want to play in the beginning," Cashman said, according to The New York Times. "It's the same thing: he has chosen not to play. There's nothing new: Andy Pettitte is not in play."

Tom Singer is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow @Tom_Singer on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.