- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira has been exchanging text messages with Andy Pettitte during the offseason as Pettitte sits at home in Deer Park, Texas, deciding whether to pitch for the Yankees in 2011 or retire.
Teixeira said on Tuesday that, through his communication with Pettitte, he's gotten the sense that the veteran left-hander is "leaning toward retirement." But the Yankees first baseman is holding out hope that Pettitte will return to a Yankees rotation that sorely needs him next season.
"I think, like everyone else [thinks], if he's leaning one way, he's probably leaning towards retiring," Teixeira said on Tuesday at a news conference to kick off Thursday's Pinstripe Bowl game at Yankee Stadium. "I think that's what he's publicly said. It's no secret right now. That's probably where he's leaning. But in a month and a half, a lot can happen."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman echoed similar sentiments about Pettitte earlier this month. Pettitte, 38, is coming off one of the best seasons of his 16-year career. He finished 2010 with an 11-3 record and a 3.28 ERA. He missed most of the second half with a groin injury but returned late in the regular season. He went 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in two playoff starts for the Bombers, who were eliminated in the ALCS by the Texas Rangers.
For the past two seasons, Pettitte has used the offseason to decide whether to return to baseball or retire. He pitched last season on a one-year, $11.75 million contract. He indicated after the Yankees' Game 6 loss to the Rangers in Texas that he was leaning toward retirement.
But Teixeira hopes that Pettitte changes his mind in the next few weeks and shows up in Tampa on Feb. 14, when pitchers and catchers report to the Yankees' spring training complex.
"Selfishly of course, I love Andy Pettitte like a brother. He's such a great player. He's such a great teammate. I would hate to not play with him this year," said Teixeira, who reported no setbacks in his rehabilitation from the hamstring injury he suffered in the ALCS. "But his family is obviously No. 1 to him and if [returning to the Yankees] is not going to be in his plans then we're going to wish him the best of luck and when he comes back on Legends Day we'll give him a big hug and tell him we miss him."
If Pettitte decides to retire, that would leave the Yankees with CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett as returning starters. The final two rotation spots would be open to a competition between Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre, among others.
Teixeira said he would not pressure Pettitte into coming back. He also believes the Yankees -- despite failing to sign free-agent starter Cliff Lee -- have enough starting pitching to compete, with or without Pettitte.
"Anytime you have a chance to pick up Cliff Lee you want to do that," Teixeira said. "If it doesn't happen we still have a lot of players that can get the job done. We basically have the same team that won the World Series two years ago. We're going to miss Andy of course but we have some young guys who are going to try to step in and do the job."
Yankees president Randy Levine added that the team would not give Pettitte a deadline to make a decision.
"I think he knows we need him. I think he knows how much we respect him. What a great leader he is. I think all his teammates have echoed it," Levine said. "But he's a great Yankee. He's a very, very mature person and he's got a great family and we've got to give him a chance to make his own decision."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.