Pettitte arrives at camp, feels for A-Rod

Updated: February 14, 2009, 12:25 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TAMPA, Fla. -- Andy Pettitte arrived at spring training on Friday, stood in front of his locker in the Yankees clubhouse, and the very first question was about -- no shock here -- Alex Rodriguez.

[+] EnlargeAndy Pettitte
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarLast year, it was Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte under fire for using performance-enhancing drugs.

"You don't ask me if it's good to be back?" Pettitte said with a smile.

And then he answered his own query.

"Man, I'm so happy to be back," Pettitte said. "It's just so good to see everybody, and I'm excited after the way last year finished up for me, and, you know, with my shoulder and stuff. Worked real hard this offseason, and just looking forward to this year. So -- all right. Thanks."

He smirked. Now the A-Rod drugs questions could begin.

The first few minutes did actually cover Pettitte's offseason contract negotiations with Yankees. His early thinking, as the team signed CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett was: "Don't they have a couple [extra million] here or there for me?" But then he concluded: "Don't throw a pity party for yourself."

So after rejecting a $10 million, one-year offer in December, Pettitte wound up accepting a $5.5 million deal with $6.5 million in available performance bonuses.

"It was kind of a little bit of a running joke with some of my friends there, saying that I was going to pay the Yankees to come back," said Pettitte, a four-time World Series champion in New York.

Then talk shifted to Rodriguez and his admission this week that he used banned substances while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-3.

Pettitte arrived at spring training last year to face reporters for the first time since the Mitchell Report revealed accusations he had used human growth hormone. Pettitte spent 55 minutes apologizing, explaining what happened and answering questions. When it was over, Yankees captain Derek Jeter hugged Pettitte, and the pitcher appeared to be relieved.

Pettitte I can't speak for anybody else. It was just easy for me to come out and tell you all what I did and when I did it exactly. ... I had to get it off my conscience. I had to get it off my chest to be able to sleep at night, where I didn't have to worry about it anymore.

-- Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte

"It was easy and it was the truth," Pettitte said. "I can't speak for anybody else. It was just easy for me to come out and tell you all what I did and when I did it exactly. ... I had to get it off my conscience. I had to get it off my chest to be able to sleep at night, where I didn't have to worry about it anymore."

Rodriguez was outed last weekend by Sports Illustrated, which reported he tested positive for steroids during baseball's anonymous survey in 2003. Two days later, Rodriguez confessed.

Pettitte has sent him text messages, and the two talked.

"He's my teammate, and I love him." Pettitte said. "It has no effect at all, the way I look at him."

Yet, Pettitte realizes the view outside the Yankees clubhouse is likely to be different.

"Obviously he's going to get a lot of criticism, and it could affect him," he said.

Since rejoining the Yankees in 2007, Pettitte has becomes friends with Rodriguez, whose slick, urbane personality sits diametrically opposite Pettitte's open, spiritual warmth. Miami heat vs. Texas twang. Pettitte describes himself as "almost a little too truthful" and "probably maybe a little more emotional."

Differences haven't blocked a bond from developing, one that will be tested as A-Rod plays at visiting ballparks and is greeted by signs and chants of "A-Roid," "A-Fraud" and worse.

Pettitte hopes no other names are revealed from the list of 104 players who tested positive in 2003.

"Last year when I spoke out, I made it crystal clear that I wouldn't want to see anybody have to go through what I went though, and I still feel that way," Pettitte said. "I don't want to see anybody go through the pain and, you know, the grief that I know they'll have to go through."

But if the names do become public, he hopes they all do so at once. That way, the stigma will be spread out.

You hate to see just one name leak here and there. But, again, for me, I don't need to see the names.

-- Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte

"You hate to see just one name leak here and there," he said. "But, again, for me, I don't need to see the names."

He is coming off a mixed season, finishing 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA -- his highest since 1999. His shoulder was sore as the Yankees attempted a stretch spurt, but the team sputtered and so did the 36-year-old left-hander: Pettitte was 2-7 with a 6.23 ERA in his final 11 starts (although he did beat Baltimore in the last game at old Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21).

His shoulder hurt so much he needed a cortisone shot before he went home to Texas. Doctors told him the shoulder would heal on its own, and he felt good during his offseason throwing.

He considers it a quiet offseason. Contract talks are nothing when compared with getting caught in a congressional investigation of drug use.

So, with Rodriguez following him down baseball's confessional chorus line, Pettitte was a perfect person to lend a shoulder electronically.

"Just letting him know I was praying for him, just praying for him and hoping he would make the right decisions moving forward, that there would be less grief for him," Pettitte said.

Rodriguez may be baseball's most prominent current player, but he is not alone.

"You realize a lot of guys were doing a lot of stuff back then," Pettitte said.

Notes

Pettitte told ESPN's Bob Holtzman on Saturday morning that he has talked to Roger Clemens once since they testified in Washington D.C., a year ago. It was in November when Clemens showed up at Pettitte's charity golf tournament. Pettitte said they haven't talked since. ... Closer Mariano Rivera, coming off right shoulder surgery, played catch. ... DH-OF Hideki Matsui (left knee surgery) resumed jogging in December and is now running sprints at 60-to-70 percent. "It's good. It's better," Matsui said. "No pain. I can do everything." ... Non-roster invitee Angel Berroa has been working out extensively at second base.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.