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LAS VEGAS -- Brian Cashman again jetted away from the Winter Meetings to meet face-to-face with a lefty starter.

But this time, the Yankees New York Yankees GM was not ready to offer a record contract as an inducement, as he did with CC Sabathia. Instead, Cashman departed here early this morning to fly to Texas for a sitdown with Andy Pettitte Andy Pettitte ], The Post has learned exclusively.

Cashman was expected to deliver the following message to Pettitte: We have signed CC Sabathia. We are about to sign A.J. Burnett. We already have Chien-Ming Wang Chien-Ming Wang ] and Joba Chamberlain under control.

So that leaves one rotation spot, and it is time to take the Yankees offer or the organization is prepared to fill that spot and close the door.

The Yankees are offering Pettitte $10 million for 2009. He made $16 million last year and does not want a pay cut. However, the Yankees are insistent he now is more of a No. 4 or 5 starter.

One team executive said recently that "in the real world, Andy is probably now an $8 million-a-year pitcher at most. We are willing to pay $2 million more because we love him, because he is a Yankee and we want it to stay that way."

Cashman almost certainly wanted to look Pettitte in the eye and express that organizational love. Maybe he was even willing to offer a face-saving gesture by throwing out some reachable incentives that will raise the payday beyond $10 million in 2009.

But it was clear Cashman also was ready to tell Pettitte this was the moment of truth: That if Pettitte really wanted to pitch as a Yankee in the new Stadium in 2009 he must act rather quickly to accept an offer -- or else the Yankees are prepared to move on elsewhere, perhaps to Ben Sheets or another option or two, including simply using youngsters Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy to battle for the job.

Tuesday, Cashman left the Winter Meetings to fly to Northern California to meet face-to-face in Sabathia's home with the ace lefty and his family. It was during that gathering the Yankees and Sabathia agreed to the framework of a pitching record $161 million, seven-year contract.

Cashman was believed to be the only GM absent from Thursday morning's Rule 5 draft, traditionally the concluding event of the Winter Meetings. At about the same time the draft began, Cashman departed the Bellagio hotel for the airport.

At the moment he left, the Yankees were viewed as on the brink of finalizing a five-year contract worth $80 million or more with Burnett. If completed, the Yankees almost certainly will not continue to pursue Derek Lowe because they do not want to sign three starters this winter to contracts that are four years or longer.

But the Yankees are intrigued by the possibility of enlisting oft-injured, but talented, Sheets to a two-year deal.

However, before they turn their full attention on Sheets, the Yankees wanted to be positive that they had fully extinguished any possibility with an organizational icon.

That is why Cashman got on a plane to visit a pitcher again. He wanted to leave no ambiguity. He wanted Pettitte to know without question what the organization's intentions were.

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