BASEBALL NOTEBOOK

Looking for the Clemens sweepstakes


Published: Monday, May 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
The Houston Astros can begin contract negotiations today with pitcher Roger Clemens, but that doesn't mean Clemens will be in uniform any time soon.
"Roger is a long way from making a final decision on this year," agent Randy Hendricks said. "I have told all four teams that Roger will not play in May. The May 1 date doesn't mean much more than the Astros being able to deal themselves in, which I expect them to do."
Clemens, who turns 43 in August, is at home in Houston and thinking about playing another season, but the question is with what team.
The Astros, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have each expressed interest.
Baseball rules prohibited the Astros from negotiating with Clemens until May 1 because they didn't offer him salary arbitration during the off-season. He could have signed with the Rangers, Red Sox or Yankees but didn't.
Hendricks returns home from an international trip today and expects to hear from the Astros on Tuesday. Tim Purpura, the Astros general manager, says he will call to gauge Clemens' interest.
"We want to see what Roger is thinking, and then start the negotiation process," Purpura says. "We haven't been able to do anything until up to this point."
The Astros gave Clemens an $18 million contract last season, and he responded by winning 13 games with a 1.87 ERA. He could have won more games, if the Astros' offense hadn't struggled all season to score runs. Clemens left Game 1 of the World Series in Chicago with a groin injury.
After the season, Clemens said he couldn't decide on 2006 until he knew how his body was going to feel in the spring.
During March, Clemens pitched well in the World Baseball Classic and worked out with the Astros' minor-leaguers at spring training camp.
At the time, he said that he felt strong and that, "There is no reason to think that I can't pitch this season."
After the 2003 World Series, Clemens retired from the New York Yankees, only to be talked into playing for the Astros by his friend and Astros pitcher, Andy Pettitte.
Clemens signed with the provision that he didn't have to travel except for when he pitched.
This spring, Clemens said his decision will not be about money. If he signs late in the season, leaving his family in Houston might not be an issue.
Clemens is in a position where he could check the standings in July and sign with the team he thinks has the best chance to make the World Series.
That would seem to eliminate the Rangers. But, if Clemens signed with the Red Sox, his career would go full-circle, joining the team that made him a big-league pitcher in 1984.
"I just want to win," Clemens said in March.
  • ATHLETICS: With one starter hurt and another's fastball stuck in first gear, the rotation is far from what they expected when they retained ace Barry Zito and signed veteran Esteban Loaiza in the offseason.
    Manager Ken Macha has a meeting set for today with general manager Billy Beane to discuss pitching. And while Macha declined to go into specifics before Sunday's game against the Kansas City Royals, he told writers to be prepared "to fill up your notebooks on the subject."
    The two will meet in Anaheim, where the A's open a series against the Los Angeles Angels on today. They will have plenty to talk about.
    Loaiza, signed to a three-year, $21.4 million deal in November, is likely to be at the top of the list. He is 0-3 and fighting velocity problems.
    Zito is 1-2 with a 5.93 ERA, Dan Haren is 1-2 and Joe Blanton - Sunday's starter - was 2-2 with a 5.92 ERA going in.
    Rich Harden, the only starter with a winning record before Sunday's game, is out for three to six weeks with a back muscle strain after starting the year 3-0. The A's haven't named a starter for Tuesday, Harden's next scheduled start.
  • YANKEES: Slugger Gary Sheffield did not start Sunday against Toronto because his left hand was sore following a collision with Blue Jays first baseman Shea Hillenbrand the previous day.
    "We're going to look into it a little bit and do some tests," New York manager Joe Torre said. "Hopefully, it's nothing more than sore at this time. If that's the case, then he's gotten his days off."
  • BRAVES: Atlanta activated reliever Macay McBride from the disabled list Sunday and optioned infielder Tony Pena to Triple-A Richmond.
  • RANGERS: Infielder Mark DeRosa was activated from the 15-day disabled list Sunday, who optioned outfielder Adam Hyzdu to Triple-A Oklahoma. DeRosa has been sidelined since April 15 with a sprained left foot.
  • TWINS: Designated hitter Ruben Sierra was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday with a strained left biceps.
    McBride had a strained left forearm during spring training. He began an injury rehab assignment on April 10 and pitched a total of seven games at Richmond and Double-A Mississippi.
    McBride pitched in 23 games for the Braves last season, going 1-0 with one save and a 5.79 ERA.
    Pena, the son of former major league catcher and manager Tony Pena, was called up from the minors April 10 and played in six games. He went 1-for-9 with three strikeouts.
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