Yankees pitcher Pettitte retiring

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, Major League Baseball's top postseason winner, has decided to retire after 16 seasons, the American League club said Thursday.

Pettitte, who stared down batters with his cap pulled low over his dark eyes, was a key member of five World Series-winning teams with the Yankees and won 19 games in postseason play, four more than runner-up John Smoltz had for Atlanta.

The 38-year-old left-hander, who had been weighing whether to return for a 17th major league season, went 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts in 2010 despite spending two months on the disabled list late in the season with a groin injury.

After the Yankees fell to the Texas Rangers in last season's American League Championship Series, Pettitte hinted that it might be time for him to walk away.

"The only thing I know right now is I love taking the mound every fifth day," he said then.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot of other stuff that, at this point and stage of my life, I don't like about baseball. Obviously it just has to do with family."

The Yankees said Pettitte would hold a news conference at Yankee Stadium Friday morning to announce his retirement.

Pettitte pitched 13 seasons for New York and three for the Houston Astros, whom he joined after the 2003 season.

He has a career record of 240-138, and stands third on the Yanks' all-time wins list with 203, trailing only Hall of Famers Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231).

Pettitte also helped Houston reach the 2005 World Series.

New York had hoped Pettitte would return to a starting rotation that may now have to rely on unproven pitchers to follow CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett on the mound.

The Yankees tried to fortify their pitching by landing free agent southpaw Cliff Lee, but he decided to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Pettitte, who owned one of the best pick-off moves in baseball, has a prominent place in the postseason record book.

Besides leading in wins, he is the all-time leader in starts (42) and innings pitched (263), and is tied for second in strikeouts (173) with Roger Clemens, 26 behind Smoltz.

Among active major league pitchers, Pettitte ranked second in wins, starts (479) and third in innings pitched (3,055 1/3) and strikeouts (2,251).

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)