NEW YORK – Andy Pettitte returned to New York for a reunion and decided to stay.

After three seasons with his hometown Houston Astros, he came up to the big city for a Nov. 10 gathering of the Yankees’ 1996 World Series championship team, a benefit for manager Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation.

“Really at that time, there was no chance. In my mind it was Houston or nowhere – or retiring,” Pettitte said. “It was out of my mind returning to New York.”

By Dec. 8, Pettitte had changed his mind, turning down a $12 million offer to stay with the Astros to accept a $16 million, one-year contract with the Yankees, a deal that was finalized Thursday.

Pettitte said Torre and the Yankees put on a “absolutely the full-court press on me” to persuade him to rejoin Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and perhaps Bernie Williams.

“Obviously Joe is very special to me,” Pettitte said during a telephone conference call. “Joe’s been very instrumental, I think, in my success and my career, the faith that he showed in me when I felt like early in my career a lot of people were losing faith in me. He put his neck on the line for me several times.”

The 34-year-old left-hander pitched for the Yankees from 1995-03 and went 13-8 for them in postseason play. He was 14-13 with a 4.20 ERA last season and joins a Yankees rotation that is projected to include Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and Kei Igawa – or perhaps Carl Pavano is trying to come back from injuries that have sidelined him since mid-2005.

Brewers offer Suppan four-year contract

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Brewers have offered a four-year contract to free-agent pitcher Jeff Suppan.

General manager Doug Melvin said Brewers officials met with Suppan and his agent, Scott Leventhal, Tuesday in the Los Angeles area and made a formal offer on Wednesday.

“We stepped up and felt it was important to be known,” Melvin said Thursday in a telephone interview, without revealing terms of Milwaukee’s proposal.

The offer was first reported Thursday on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Web site.

Suppan and Leventhal met Wednesday with New York Mets officials, who dined the previous night with Barry Zito and his agent, Scott Boras. Zito is likely to reach an agreement before Suppan.

“My gut feeling is, they’re going to wait until Zito,” Melvin said.

Reds obtain Conine from Phillies

CINCINNATI – The Reds acquired Jeff Conine from the Philadelphia Phillies for a pair of minor leaguers Thursday, giving them a right-handed hitter who can share a spot at first base and play the outfield.

The 40-year-old Conine played the outfield and first base with Baltimore and Philadelphia last season, hitting .268 with 10 homers and 66 RBIs. The Phillies acquired him in an August trade.

In exchange for Conine, the Phillies got infielder Brad Key and outfielder Javon Moran, both of whom played in the low minor leagues. To make room for Conine on their 40-man roster, the Reds designated infielder Brendan Harris for assignment to the minors.

One of the Reds’ offseason priorities was acquiring a right-handed hitter for a lineup that revolves around left-handed hitters Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Scott Hatteberg. Conine initially might platoon with Hatteberg at first base.

Vero Beach mayor says Orioles now interested

MIAMI – The Baltimore Orioles are thinking about moving their spring training operations into the historic Dodgertown facility, the mayor of Vero Beach said Thursday – though the team denied any upcoming move.

The Orioles have already paid a visit to the Treasure Coast city’s Dodgertown Sports & Conference Center, where the Los Angeles Dodgers have held spring training for almost 60 years, and “a couple” of other teams have also expressed interest in moving to the facility, Mayor Tom White said.

“The history is still there as Dodgertown,” White said. “But it will always be there. There will be a history that we had the Brooklyn Dodgers and the L.A. Dodgers, but I don’t see a problem with another team starting their own history.”

Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said Thursday that the team remains committed to training in Fort Lauderdale, where the team has trained since 1996.

“Our intention and our focus is to continue to pursue the Fort Lauderdale option,” Stetka said. “We’ve been working with the people in Fort Lauderdale for a number of years and are still hopeful of getting an agreement in place that will provide state funding that we hope will be allocated.”


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