Deal is $7.5M less than Yankees' offer

HOUSTON -- Andy Pettitte followed his heart back home to
Houston, making a "gut-wrenching'' decision Thursday to leave the New York Yankees and accept a $31.5 million, three-year contract
with the Houston Astros.

After winning four World Series championships and six AL
pennants in New York, Pettitte hopes his winning ways will help
lead Houston to its first-ever title. And he'd like an old friend
to join him -- Pettitte is trying to get Roger Clemens to push back
retirement and pitch for the Astros next season.

"I left him this morning. He's still working out with me. We'll
see what happens," Pettitte said. "I know the media's already hit
him up on that, and if I feel there's a chance, I'll hit him up on
it, too."

Pettitte made his decision to accept Houston's heavily
backloaded proposal after weighing a new offer from the Yankees on
Wednesday night.

New York then went to its backup plan, and has agreed to a
trade with Los Angeles that will send Kevin Brown to the Yankees
for Jeff Weaver, two
minor leaguers and $3 million, two baseball officials said on
condition of anonymity.

Pettitte took $7.5 million less to sign with the Astros -- the Yankees'
last offer was for $39 million over three years.
But the Astros play near Pettitte's hometown of Deer Park, an
important factor for the pitcher's wife and children.

"They really wanted me here," said Pettitte. "My heart started
pulling me and tugging me to come back down here and play in front
of the Astros and the Houston fans."

"We hate to lose Andy Pettitte," Yankees owner George
Steinbrenner said in a statement. "We know the fans may be
disappointed, but if you're counting us out next year, don't bet
the house."

Later, as he left the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa,
Fla., Steinbrenner said, "It's obvious to a lot of us from the
start that he wanted to go home."

"He wanted to go home to Houston. And I admire him for wanting
to be with his family. He couldn't do that in New York,"
Steinbrenner said. "He was a great competitor for me."

Pettitte, in fact, has been working out with Clemens.

"I don't know what he's thinking, but he's been working out with me all week and he's in shape," Pettitte told Dan Patrick on ESPN Radio. "He could pitch right now. I can tell you this ... if he expressed to me at all that he wanted to play, I would be all over him."

Pettitte, 31, went 149-78 with the Yankees, who signed him in
1991. If he had stayed in New York, he would have had the chance to
surpass Whitey Ford's 236 victories and become the winningest
pitcher in team history.

Pettitte went 21-8 with a 4.02 ERA last season.

Derek Jeter tried to convince Pettitte to stay in the Bronx.

"He called me a few days ago and yeah, he tried to talk me into staying," Pettitte told Patrick. "That's one of the hard parts, leaving great guys like him and a lot of others."

"About a month ago when this all first began, I don't think any
of us thought this was more than a pipe dream," Astros general
manager Gerry Hunsicker said. "I can't think of a better person
that fits the description of what we are trying to do in Houston,
Texas, in regard to image and character. And we all know how
important pitching is to a successful baseball team."

Pettitte will get $5.5 million next season, $8.5 million in 2005
and $17.5 million in 2006, according to contract details obtained
by the Associated Press.

While the Astros were aggressive in their pursuit, the Yankees
were unusually passive. New York waited until the last day of its
exclusive 15-day window to make an offer, and it was for $30
million over three years, including a $3 million buyout of a 2007

Boston made an early $52 million, four-year bid, one of the
sources said, but Pettitte decided he couldn't pitch for the
Yankees' rival.

With the Astros, he felt wanted.

"When I walked off the mound at Yankee Stadium at the end of
[World Series] Game 6, I didn't think this would be a reality,"
Pettitte said. "I didn't know how interested the Astros would

He joins a team trying to rebuild and win at the same time.
Houston dealt closer Billy Wagner to Philadelphia last month in a
cost-cutting move. Pettitte will combine with Wade Miller and Roy
Oswalt to form a powerful front three in the rotation.

And, the Astros are counting on Octavio Dotel to replace Wagner.

"Just when I thought things were turning in the wrong direction
with Wags, Drayton (owner McLane) stepped up," Astros slugger Jeff
Bagwell told Houston television station KRIV. "He brought a
quality, quality pitcher to our team. Never in my wildest
imagination did I think we really had a chance."

Said Pettitte: "All I've known in New York was winning. I
wouldn't have come here if I wouldn't have felt I had a chance to

Sounding wistful at times, the 31-year-old left-hander said the
Yankees' failure to pursue him aggressively allowed him to turn his
attention to Houston, which wound up signing him for $7.5 million
less than New York offered.

"When I left there after (World Series) Game 6, I never really
envisioned myself in a different uniform," Pettitte said. "I
thought that they would try to make a serious push to sign me

While Houston has had many strong teams since joining the
National League for the 1962 season, the Astros have never made it
to the World Series.

Pettitte won four World Series with the Yankees.

With his departure, only Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie
Williams and Jorge Posada remain from the group that led the
Yankees to titles.

"It's going to be a little strange," Yankees reliever Steve
Karsay said. "It's going to be sad to see him go."

Clemens sounded surprised by the Yankees' bargaining.

"This is their guy," he told Sporting News Radio. "I think if
they would have come and hit him hard early, no other team would
have been able to sway him away."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.