Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Andy Continues Plugging Along

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Andy Continues Plugging Along

Article excerpt

The gray hairs congregate around his temples.

They pepper Andy Pettitte's close-cropped black hair.

The ravages of time are settling in, and their reminders surround him daily.

His declining velocity. His aging body. Longtime teammate Mariano Rivera's much-celebrated final lap around the majors.

And as Pettitte stood in front of his locker Sunday morning, with the Yankees Old-Timers' Day ceremony unfolding just outside, he acknowledged this season could be his final trek through baseball.

"I know how precious they are," the left-hander said of his remaining starts this season. "I think that's why I take them so hard. I take every one of them like this could be my last.

"Not only because I could be done this year. But physically, you don't know what's going to happen."

The Yankees (41-34) begin a 20-game stretch tonight that will take them to the All-Star break, a span that manager Joe Girardi called "extremely important."

And they still heavily rely on Pettitte (5-5 record this season, 4.20 ERA; 0-2 record, 5.93 ERA in his past two starts) who pitches Wednesday against the Texas Rangers.

He wouldn't want it any other way.

"I didn't want to come back and embarrass myself," he said of his return this season.

Pettitte, 41, dropped no hints as to when the end will come.

Maybe he didn't have to.

He's pitched 18 big-league seasons. Teammate Zoilo Almonte was 5 when Pettitte made his debut in 1995.

And his body has begun to rebel. His balky back twice has flared up this season without warning.

But he's been a fixture in the Bronx. He's won 250 games (47th all time, one behind Bob Gibson). And he's helped the Yankees capture five World Series.

He wants to go out that way. A winner.

Pettitte never thought he'd still have the chance.

His left elbow screamed during his final season in Houston in 2006, two years after he underwent surgery to repair a torn tendon. He wasn't sure he'd even make it through 2007.

"I've been so blessed," Pettitte said. "When I came back six years ago from Houston, I told them, 'My elbow's killing me. …

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