TAMPA - Andy Pettitte never backtracked or said Roger Clemens was wrong to say he "misremembered" their conversation about human growth hormone, but after one hour of answering questions from reporters at Legends Field yesterday, it was clear how terribly conflicted the Yankees pitcher is about being in the middle of the life-changing controversy with two men he calls his friends, Clemens and Brian McNamee.
"I love him like a brother," Pettitte said about Clemens. "It's a horrible situation. Both men are my friends. It's a horrible position to be in."
But it is one Pettitte put himself in when he decided to take HGH to help heal his elbow in 2002 and then again in 2004 when he found he had a torn flexor tendon that would require surgery, one start into his three-year deal with the Houston Astros.
Pettitte acknowledged that McNamee phoned him a week before the Mitchell Report was released to warn him of his inclusion in the report. McNamee named him and Clemens as players he had injected with HGH and, in Clemens's case, with steroids, too.
Pettitte sat with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and first-year manager Joe Girardi, while three longtime teammates - Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera - also attended in a show of support. Pettitte's lawyers were also in attendance and advised him not to address anything pertaining to the deposition he gave to Congressional lawyers.
Pettitte is aware he might have to testify if the government brings a perjury case against Clemens, but he didn't seem to fear that, or the fan reaction he is likely to receive in venues hostile to the Yankees, such as Boston.
He based that on the fact that he's already given testimony to Congress, and he would be saying the same things if a case should mount against Clemens.
"I think Roger knows how I feel about him," said Pettitte. "He knows I've admired him and continue to admire him. He's a great friend to me."
Pettitte acknowledged that the friendship had to be strained simply because they have not spoken in a while, but he said he hoped to be Clemens's friend after all was said and done.
"This has been a horrible situation for me," he said. "I'm hoping and praying I don't have to do anything else with this."
Pettitte doesn't believe he will be suspended for his HGH use by commissioner Bud Selig since it was not a banned substance in baseball until January 2005.
Pettitte said he will apologize to his teammates for the distraction he caused and already has apologized to the Steinbrenner family for "embarrassing" the organization. Supposedly, the Steinbrenners told Pettitte they were behind him "100 percent" and that he hadn't brought the organization any embarrassment. Pettitte said he disagreed with the owners on that point.
Asked why he took HGH again in 2004, Pettitte said, "Stupidity and desperation are the only excuse I can give you. I found out my dad was using it. I had just signed a three-year contract with the Astros and after my first start I found out I needed surgery.
"I wasn't going to have surgery. I felt I was going to let the organization down."
Asked about the conflicting testimony between him and Clemens, Pettitte said, "I don't take it personally.
"Roger is a grown man. He's doing what he feels is the right thing to do."
Pettitte reiterated that McNamee told the truth about his HGH use but would not get into whether McNamee was telling the truth about Clemens.
Pettitte apologized for not telling the complete truth about his '04 HGH use, saying he didn't want to implicate his father, who provided it. Pettitte's father had used HGH for a number of heart ailments.
Pettitte said that because he took the HGH only twice in '02, he could not say whether it helped that injury; he did not comment on whether it helped in '04.
Asked whether he thought about retiring once the drug revelations came to light, Pettitte said, "I'd be lying if I said that didn't cross my mind. Not over the last couple of days. It's been a hard offseason."
But bailing out, he said, "wouldn't be the thing to do as a man. I'll take it like a man."
Pettitte said he did not want to testify before Congress and thanked his attorneys for getting him out of it.
"I didn't want to do it," he said.
Pettitte, who has 201 victories and four World Series championships, was asked whether he was a cheater because he took HGH.
"All I can tell you, from the bottom of my heart, I know why I did this," he said. "I did it because I was told it might be able to help me. If people think I'm lying, then they should call me a cheater.
"Do I think I'm a cheater? No, I don't. Was it stupid? Yes, I was stupid. Was I desperate? Yes, I probably was."
As for the baseball season, Pettitte thinks he will be ready when the March 31 opener comes around, saying his arm felt good but that his legs need to catch up in terms of conditioning.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com.