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Astros sad to lose part of the family

Astros sad to lose part of the family

HOUSTON -- When Roy Oswalt heard Andy Pettitte's voice on the other end of the phone Friday morning, he had a feeling he knew what his good friend was about to tell him.

"He wanted to talk to me first," Oswalt said. "He said he just got off the phone with his agent. He wanted to call me so I could hear it from him."

The news, of course, was that Pettitte is headed back to the New York Yankees, following his agreement to a one-year deal that will pay him $16 million in 2007. He also holds a player option for the same amount in '08.

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Pettitte is leaving home to go home, in a way. He's a born and bred Houstonian who will probably reside in Deer Park, Texas, for the rest of his life. But his professional life began in New York, and the Yankees, his team for nine years and four World Series championships, also provide the comforts of home.

Pettitte's decision saddened Oswalt, but he took the news somewhat objectively. The Astros righty was uncharacteristically subdued while expressing his opinions about losing his teammate and good friend to the Yankees, perhaps remembering where he stands as one of the higher-paid players on the Astros' payroll.

"I don't know the whole thing," Oswalt said. "One thing about Andy, you know what you're going to get from him every day. He'll stay out there whether he's hurt or not. I don't know the whole story. I just know he signed with the Yankees. I'd love to have him back, but it's his decision and I hope he does well over there. They need some pitching."

But so do the Astros, who lost their projected No. 2 starter -- one would have fallen in line behind Oswalt and in front of newcomer Woody Williams. For Oswalt, he's losing one of the few teammates that he also considered to be a confidant.

"A lot of times, fans don't realize how close of a family it is," Oswalt said. "Especially with starters. We have five starters on our team, and they pretty much do everything together. Pitchers and hitters are totally different. Hitters have 15 guys to hang out with. It's different with five starters. We always hang out together. It creates a family environment. But I realize the business part of this game."

Brad Ausmus had also been exchanging calls with Pettitte, so the news that the lefty signed with the Yankees did not come as a complete shock. Still, Ausmus, who was paired with Pettitte and Roger Clemens exclusively for the last three seasons, is sad that Pettitte is switching uniforms.

"I'm disappointed, because I'm losing a teammate I'm extremely fond of, and we're losing a bona fide big-league, big-game star winning pitcher," Ausmus said. "He was probably the biggest big-game pitcher I've ever been associated with."

Ausmus said he had an empty feeling when he first heard the news.

"It was similar to the feeling I had when I got traded away [from the Astros in 1999], because I didn't want to leave Houston," Ausmus said.

Ausmus also realizes the Astros probably aren't done dealing, and he hopes the club lands a solid starter to take Pettitte's place.

"A lot of things can happen," he said. "There's still a lot of offseason left. [Pettitte's departure] thins out our starting pitching immediately. I'm always a proponent of starting pitching, because it's the key to success in baseball, during the long season and a short postseason."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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