Pettitte ready to hang up pinstripes

Andy Pettitte is going ahead with his decision to retire, leaving the New York Yankees with two huge holes in what appears to be a rather wobbly starting rotation.

NEW YORK — Andy Pettitte is going ahead with his decision to retire, leaving the New York Yankees with two huge holes in what appears to be a rather wobbly starting rotation.

The team scheduled a morning news conference today at Yankee Stadium for Pettitte to announce the choice he had been leaning toward since the end of last season.

“I don’t think enough people know that he’s still the leader of this pitching staff until today,” former Yankees right-fielder Paul O’Neill said in a telephone interview.

A five-time World Series champion and the third-winningest pitcher in team history, Pettitte became a free agent after the World Series. The 38-year-old left-hander has not attempted to negotiate a contract.

New York has no proven starters behind CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett, who struggled during the second half of last season.

Having failed to sign free-agent Cliff Lee, New York has agreed to minor-league contracts with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in recent weeks, trying to find more options for a fourth and fifth starter in addition to youngster Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. The Yankees also are interested in signing Kevin Millwood, according to a source requesting anonymity.

Pettitte finished 240-138 with a 3.88 ERA in 16 major league seasons. He excelled in the post-season, setting a major league record for wins by going 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA. A member of the “Core Four” along with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, Pettitte helped the Yankees win World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009.

“You’re going to miss him taking the mound every fifth day. You’re going to miss having him as your number-one or number-two starter going into the playoffs,” said O’Neill, a former teammate and current broadcaster for the Yankees’ YES Network. “But you’re really going to miss just how he helps younger players and how he helps pitching staffs as a veteran pitcher who’s really been though pretty much everything as a New York Yankee.”

Pettitte spent 13 seasons with the Yankees, interrupting his career in New York to play for his hometown Houston Astros from 2004-06. He was a three-time all-star, earning the honour in 1996, 2001 and last year, and was a 20-game winner in 1996 and 2003 when he twice went 21-8.

He was 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts last season. His season was limited by a strained left groin that caused him to go on the disabled list from July 19 to Sept. 19.

Pettitte had said that he increasingly felt the tug to return to Deer Park, Texas, and his wife and four children. Once the school year ended, his family travelled to New York where they could be together during homestands, but the distance from his loved ones now has trumped whatever desire he had to climb higher in the Yankees record book.

“Now it seems like he’s at the point of his life where he’s not willing to make that commitment,” O’Neill said. “He’s had a wonderful career. Fans have to respect what he’s going to go do now, which is to live his life and let his kids live their lives.”

Pettitte’s 203 wins with the Yankees trail only Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231). He is second to Ford in strikeouts (1,823) and starts (396).

He is expected to be a witness this summer at the trial of former teammate Roger Clemens, indicted on charges he lied to a congressional committee when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

Pettitte admitted using human growth hormone and said Clemens told him he had used HGH. Clemens testified Pettitte didn’t remember the conversation correctly.