Pettitte signs with Astros

Former New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte has agreed to a three-year contract with the Houston Astros.

The 31-year-old free-agent left-hander joins a starting staff that includes Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller. The trio won a combined 45 games in 2003.

Pettitte, who lives in a suburb of Houston, went 21-8 this past season in 33 starts with a 4.02 earned-run average. He won his final four starts and went 8-1 over his last nine. In 208.1 innings, Pettitte struck out 180 batters.

The Yankees immediately went to their backup plan, closing in on a trade with Los Angeles that would send veteran Kevin Brown to the Bronx for Jeff Weaver, a baseball official said on the condition of anonymity.

New York traded for Montreal Expos right-hander Javier Vazquez on Dec. 4.

The Yankees reportedly offered Pettitte $39 million US over three seasons, about $3 million more annually than Houston. But Pettitte apparently couldn't pass up the chance to play near his hometown of Deer Park.

The Astros plan to announce the deal at a news conference Thursday.

Tom Pettitte, Andy's father, told the New York Times the Yankees didn't take advantage of an exclusive 15-day window to sign the pitcher right after their World Series loss to the Florida Marlins.

The paper also reported both the Yankees and Astros had made offers of three years for approximately $30 million US.

Tom Pettitte added the Boston the Red Sox had offered a more lucrative contract than the Yankees, but his son declined because he could only see himself playing in Yankee pinstripes.

Pettitte, who made $11.5 million US in 2003, captured four World Series titles with the Yankees and is tied with Atlanta's John Smoltz for the most wins in post-season history with 13.

In his nine-year MLB career, all with the Yankees, Pettitte has compiled a 149-78 record with a 3.94 ERA. He leaves 87 wins shy of Whitey Ford's 236, the team record for a lefty.

A two-time American League all-star and most valuable player of the AL Championship Series, Pettitte was the Game 6 loser to the Marlins in this year's World Series.

He finished 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in five post-season starts.

Brown, who turns 39 in March, signed baseball's first $100 million contract with the Dodgers, a deal that has two seasons remaining at $15 million annually.

He was 14-9 with a 2.39 ERA last year for Los Angeles, but has pushed for a trade to a team closer to his home in Macon, Ga.

Injuries limited him to 19 starts in 2001 and 10 in 2002, but he rebounded to make 32 starts last season, when he had the second-lowest ERA in the NL behind Jason Schmidt.

Weaver, 27, has struggled since the Yankees acquired him from Detroit in July 2002, failing to keep his spot in the rotation. He was 7-9 with a 5.99 ERA last season, and allowed the 12th-inning homer to Florida's Alex Gonzalez that won the pivotal fourth game of the World Series.

with files from Associated Press and Sports Network