Rumors run rampant about Clemens' return

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Word has been circulating that the seven-time Cy Young Award winner will sign with Astros.

NEW YORK -- The Houston Astros still want to re-sign Roger Clemens, though his agent and the team said Tuesday that there is no deal.

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner plans on deciding soon whether to pitch this season or retire for good.

"Obviously, we're still hopeful. But nothing has been determined," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "We'd love to get a phone call that Roger is going to pitch for us. They know what our interest is, what our parameters are.

"We'd like to make a deal. But Roger still has decide want he wants to do and make his choice," he said.

Agent Randy Hendricks said the 43-year-old Clemens is "very close with a final decision." One Web site reported that Clemens had signed with Houston.

"He has not signed any agreement with the Houston Astros. That is incorrect," Hendricks said. "I have not spoken with the Houston Astros today. I think I would know when a deal was done."

The Astros were 26-26 and 7 1/2 games behind the NL Central-leading Cardinals going into Tuesday night's game at St. Louis.

Clemens pitched for the Astros last season and helped them reach the World Series for the first time. Houston, the New York Yankees, Boston and Texas have all tried to lure Clemens to pitch this season.

In the Houston clubhouse at Busch Stadium, Clemens was a big topic of discussion.

"False alarm," manager Phil Garner said. "I didn't see it, but one of the players came in and told me that it was on TV that we had signed him."

"I just talked to our GM when we heard that it was on TV and he has no news of it and he would be the guy that would know," he said. "We've said all along that we'd love for him to sign here. We think this is the right spot for him and we think it's a good home."

Clemens last pitched competitively in the World Baseball Classic, where he beat South Africa for the United States in the first round and lost to Mexico 2-1 in the second on March 16.

In Detroit, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre heard the report that Clemens was returning to Houston.

"I'm not at all surprised," he said. "I didn't think that him coming back here was ever going to happen. Houston's just such a perfect fit for him -- he lives there and Andy's on the team. That's why he came back before, and the circumstances haven't changed."

Texas owner Tom Hicks was told last week by the Hendricks brothers -- Randy and Alan, who represent Clemens -- that the Rangers were out of consideration, GM Jon Daniels said.

"Tom got the call on Friday that we were no longer in the running for his services," Daniels said Tuesday. "The way we looked at it was, it would be an honor to be associated with him but we've continued to focus on the 25 guys here. It would have been nice, but we weren't planning on it from the get-go."

Clemens retired after the 2003 season, then changed his mind and joined his hometown Astros after former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte left New York to sign with Houston.

Clemens won his seventh Cy Young Award in 2004, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA. He went 13-8 with a 1.87 ERA last year, winning the major league ERA title for the first time since 1990.


AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker, AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis and AP freelance writers Dave Hogg in Detroit and Ken Sins in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.

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