Originally created 01/13/04

Clemens puts off retirement to join Astros



HOUSTON -- Nearly three months after Roger Clemens bid farewell to baseball with a tip of his cap, he put off retirement and agreed Monday to a $5 million, one-year contract to pitch for his hometown Houston Astros.

The six-time Cy Young Award winner had said for more than a year that he planned to retire after pitching last season for the New York Yankees.

But the future Hall of Famer was persuaded to join the Astros after close friend and former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte signed with Houston last month.

"It's great to come home," The Rocket said.

Clemens, 41, was 17-9 with a 3.91 ERA last season, his fifth with the Yankees. He spent his first 13 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, then went to the Toronto Blue Jays for two years before moving on to New York, where he won World Series titles in 1999 and 2000.

"Obviously, I think I have a lot to give," Clemens said. "When I get into that dugout, I'm going to be excited to get back to work. We want to get to that final step and make some memories together."

His 310-160 record puts him 17th on the career wins list, and his 4,099 strikeouts place him third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136).

"Roger Clemens was a great warrior for the Yankees - a teacher and a leader," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. "He told the world he was retiring, and we had no choice but to believe him."

In addition to his base salary, Clemens can earn an additional $1.4 million based on the Astros' attendance.

"His charisma, character, credibility is all going to take this franchise to a new level," Astros general manager Gerry Hunicker said.

Clemens' last appearance for the Yankees came in Game 4 of the World Series against the Florida Marlins. Flashbulbs popped repeatedly as fans photographed what they thought was his final pitching appearance.

Fifty friends and family members flew to Miami to watch the game; Clemens did not get a decision, as the Yankees lost to Florida 4-3 in 12 innings. He got a standing ovation as he left the mound. Even the Marlins players applauded after Clemens struck out Luis Castillo with what was thought to be his final major league pitch.

Clemens thought about pitching for the United States at the 2004 Olympics, but the Americans were eliminated from the competition in November.

Clemens' outlook on retirement started to change Dec. 11, when left-hander Pettitte - who also lives in the Houston area - agreed to a $31.5 million, three-year contract with the Astros.