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Big bucks

Yanks, Pettitte agree to three-year, $25.5 million deal

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Posted: Tuesday January 25, 2000 06:48 PM

  Andy Pettitte Andy Pettitte is 81-46 with a 3.92 ERA in five major league season with New York. Jamie Squire/Allsport

NEW YORK (AP) -- Just a few months ago, Andy Pettitte figured his career with the New York Yankees was about to end.

Boy, how things have changed.

Pettitte, the third winningest pitcher in baseball the past four seasons, signed a $25.5 million, three-year deal with the Yankees on Tuesday.

"I thought there was a 70-80 percent chance I was gone," said Pettitte, who was nearly dealt by owner George Steinbrenner at last season's trade deadline. "That was pretty devastating to me. Now they want me to stick around for three more years. It shows how quickly things can change."

Pettitte, whose win total has dropped in each of the last three seasons -- from 21 in 1996 to 14 last season -- had a troubling start in 1999.

He was 7-8 with a 5.65 ERA at the July 31 trade deadline, when a deal with Philadelphia was nearly completed. His confidence was so frayed, that he even tinkered with his release point during games -- leading to a sidearm curveball in Chicago that frustrated manager Joe Torre.

Steinbrenner pushed for the trade with the Phillies, but Torre and general manager Brian Cashman urged The Boss to give Pettitte another chance.

Steinbrenner did, but with a challenge to his pitcher to "show what kind of man he is."

"Mr. Steinbrenner made some comments during the season," Pettitte said. "I wasn't performing, so that's OK for him to do. He made me this offer. It makes me think maybe he wants me to be around also to help this organization win."

Pettitte responded by going 5-1 with a 1.76 ERA in August and winning twice in the postseason. The 27-year-old left-hander finished the year 14-11 with a 4.70 ERA in 31 starts.

Pride of the Yankees
Highest winning percentage in pinstripes
pitchers  record  pct. 
Spud Chandler  109-43  .717 
Vic Raschi  132-66  .706 
Whitey Ford  236-106  .690 
Allie Reynolds  131-60  .686 
Carl Mays  80-39  .672 
Lefty Gomez  189-101  .652 
Ron Guidry  170-91  .651  
Ed Lopat  116-63  .648 
Herb Pennock  162-90  .643 
Andy Pettitte  81-46  .638 
* minimum 100 decisions
He then beat Texas in the first round of the playoffs, allowing one run in 7 1-3 innings in Game 2, and defeated Boston in Game 4 of the ALCS, allowing two runs in 7 1-3 innings.

Pettitte stumbled against Atlanta in Game 3 of the World Series, getting pounded for five runs and 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings.

"We believe in him. He's had his successes, he's had his failures," Cashman said. "He battled through it and finished really strong. He's one of the major reasons why over the last four years we have three rings. We're happy to come to agreement with someone of his caliber."

Pettitte, who made $5.95 million last year, would have been eligible for free agency after this season. He will get a $3 million signing bonus, $6 million each in 2000 and 2001, and $8.5 million in 2002. The Yankees hold an $11.5 million option for 2003 with a $2 million buyout.

"Obviously, I could have made a lot more money if I became a free agent," Pettitte said. "I really don't think I needed to have a monster year. I'm comfortable in New York and there's nowhere else I want to play."

Pettitte is 81-46 with a 3.92 ERA in five seasons with the Yankees. His 69 wins the past four seasons trail only Boston's Pedro Martinez (72) and Atlanta's Greg Maddux (71) for most in the majors.

Four Yankees remain in arbitration, but shortstop Derek Jeter is near agreement on a record $118.5 million, seven-year contract, a deal expected to be concluded in the next few weeks.

Also in arbitration are closer Mariano Rivera and relievers Ramiro Mendoza and Jason Grimsley. The Yankees settled last week with catcher Jorge Posada on a $1.25 million, one-year contract.

The Yankees have already committed about $72 million for 16 players next season and the opening-day payroll is expected to end up at about $95 million -- slightly more than last year's major league-leading $92 million.

Related information
Jeter close to record $118 million contract
Mussina will stay -- if the price is right
Orioles, Yankees hit hardest by luxury tax
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