Jeter: Pettitte had desire to return

Derek Jeter sensed that Andy Pettitte wanted to pitch again.

Three months shy of his 40th birthday, Pettitte ended his brief retirement Friday. The left-hander signed a minor league deal with the Yankees with an invitation to spring training.

”I knew he was itching . . . thinking about it, but a lot of people say that,” Jeter said before Saturday’s game against Houston.

The New York shortstop was a little surprised Pettitte decided to comeback after not pitching last season.

”He retired, mainly, because he wanted to spend time with his family, but maybe momma got tired of him a little bit,” Jeter said with a smile. ”He didn’t talk about it at all last year, and then he started talking about it this year.”

If Pettitte’s comeback is successful and he’s added to the major league roster, he would get a $2.5 million, one-year contract.

Pettitte said during a conference call Friday his desire to work is back. He has pitched in the majors for 16 seasons, 13 with the Yankees.

”It’s great,” Jeter said. ”He’ll add to our team on the field, off the field. Andy’s just a good person.”

Pettitte is not expected be ready to break camp with the team when spring training ends early next month. He has been throwing off a mound.

”One thing with Andy is, he works extremely hard,” Jeter said. ”It’s obvious that he’s been working out, it’s not like he’s coming off the couch.”

Pettitte last played in 2010, when he went 11-3 and was an All-Star. He is 240-138 lifetime with the Yankees and Houston, and has gone 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 42 career postseason starts.

”What an amazing guy,” Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said. ”What an amazing sports figure. What an exciting moment for everybody in his locker room and also the Yankee universe in general.”

New York currently has four starters, besides Pettitte, looking to fill three rotation spots behind opening day pitcher CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.

”Playing with the Yankees, nothing surprises me,” New York right-hander Freddy Garcia said.

Garcia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Michael Pineda are competing for starting spots.

”No, not really,” Garcia said when asked if the Pettitte signing affects him. ”I’m still doing my stuff. I’m here to pitch. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Garcia’s bruised right hand still has some swelling, but he is set to resume playing catch. The right-hander took a grounder off the hand last Wednesday against Toronto and will miss his next scheduled start Monday.