The 35-year-old reversed course late Sunday and sent word to the Yankees that he indeed wants to pitch in 2008. Pettitte may even be interested in more: The left-hander told a Houston television station on Tuesday that he feels he could pitch another 10 years.
"I really believe now, especially after playing with the Astros and pitching with my elbow the way it was when I needed the surgery, I realize now I could go out and probably pitch until I'm 45 years old, because I was throwing 82-83 miles an hour and still being able to compete -- maybe because I'm left-handed or whatever," Pettitte told KRIV-TV on Tuesday in Houston.
"For me, the thing of me not being able to go out there and get any guys out, I think that's so far down the road probably that's never going to play into my decision."
Pettitte went 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 2007, suiting back up in pinstripes and serving as a stalwart of a Yankees rotation that, at times, desperately needed his stability and veteran presence.
The club made it clear to Pettitte that it would welcome his return.
"It means a lot, because I know what Andy's all about," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "I had a chance to play with Andy and experience what Andy brings to the team on the field and off the field. He's the type of man that is important.
"I think what brought Andy back is that he loves what he does. The competitive juices probably started flowing again and he had a chance to recharge his batteries a little bit. He's ready to go."
The Yankees left a standing $16 million contract offer on the table when Pettitte turned down his player option for the same amount, and catcher Jorge Posada said he checked in with Pettitte weekly. Additional telephone calls from Girardi and captain Derek Jeter, among others, helped sway Pettitte's decision.
"Everybody wanted me to come back," Pettitte told KRIV-TV. "My wife realized that if she would have said, 'Let's shut it down,' I would have definitely done that. She was like, 'Let's see how it goes one more year.' So with that support and all of my teammates' support, no matter what, wanting me to come back and do this again, that's probably the big thing."
With Yankees pitchers and catchers set to report on Feb. 14, Pettitte will eventually rejoin a New York rotation that, as of Tuesday, projects to include 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang and veteran Mike Mussina, along with rookies Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.
Right-hander Ian Kennedy, apparently a sticking point in the Yankees' cooling pursuit of Twins ace Johan Santana, could begin the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. While the Red Sox have warmed on Santana's trail, the Yankees have reportedly shifted their attention toward kicking tires on the A's Dan Haren.
"The bottom line is, we're still trying to complete some things, hopefully," senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner told MLB.com on Tuesday. "We're happy to have our own players back, and now Andy's back. Where we go from there, we'll move forward."
Pettitte's return means that he will be present for the final year of the current Yankee Stadium, which will be celebrated in a season-long tribute that will be highlighted by the 2008 All-Star Game in July.
A new home is rapidly rising next door, and Pettitte said that the significance of opening a new Yankee Stadium in 2009 was not lost on him when he made his decision to continue playing.
He pointed to that as one reason that, after two consecutive years of contemplating retirement, Pettitte is disinclined to rule out pitching beyond next season.
"One of the main things this was such a tough decision for me, one year could lead to another maybe," Pettitte said. "For the main reason, if I'm healthy and if my family wanted to support it again, we would consider it, but also the Yankees are going to have a new stadium. I know down the road when we get through this season that will be in the back of my head also. That would be awfully nice to play in that new stadium.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say that was some of the stuff that you think about. I realize there are some things that could be enticing that tie me into playing even another year."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.