Pettitte to return to Yankees in '08

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Andy Pettitte has told the Yankees he will return to pitch in 2008, has confirmed.

Pettitte's agent, Randy Hendricks, informed Yankees general manager Brian Cashman on Sunday that the left-hander would be returning for his 14th big league season. Pettitte will accept a $16 million offer after initially declining his player option for the same amount, saying he needed more time to decide whether to pitch or retire and spend more time with his family. Just last week Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who also re-signed with New York this off-season, said Pettitte was leaning toward retirement.

But with Posada, captain Derek Jeter and new manager Joe Girardi reaching out to him to return for a 11th season in the Bronx, Pettitte decided to come back, giving the Yankees a clean sweep in retaining all four of their free-agent stars this off-season: Pettitte, Posada, closer Mariano Rivera, and third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who won his second AL MVP award in three years last month.

"Andy decided this weekend he didn't want to keep the Yankees on hold as they sought to determine their team for next year," Hendricks told the AP. "Players such as Jeter and Posada told him how much they needed him back, as did Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi."

Still just 35, Pettitte's return gives the Yankees a little more stability and a lot more experience in a starting rotation that was shaping up as one of the youngest in baseball. Aside from veteran righty Mike Mussina, who appears to be in decline, young right-handers Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy -- all of whom made their major league debuts in 2007 -- are all expected to be a part of the rotation. That could change if the Yankees succeed in dealing for Johan Santana, the superstar left-hander from the Minnesota Twins in a deal that would cost them Hughes.

Pettitte, a mainstay during the Yankees dynasty years who earned a reputation as a big game pitcher, went 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 36 games for the Yankees in 2007, his first year back in New York after spending the three previous seasons with his hometown Houston Astros. He won his 200th game against Baltimore on Sept. 19 on his way to his 13th straight season with a winning record, 12 of which have included at least 12 wins.

Pettitte was the only Yankees starter to deliver a quality outing in the postseason, shutting out the Indians over 6 1/3 innings of Game 2, which the Yankees eventually lost 2-1. Despite those credentials, Pettitte has never been a shut-down ace, nor has he felt comfortable in that role. To that end, the Yankees have been pursuing Santana, the two-time Cy Young winning Twins lefty whom Minnesota has placed on the open market because he is unlikely to resign with the mid-market club when he becomes a free agent after the 2008 season.

Word of Pettitte's return was first reported Monday in the Houston Chronicle.