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Clemens may be Young, but he's ready to walk away

OSAKA, Japan - Winning an unprecedented seventh Cy Young Award, his first in the National League, only makes the question of Roger Clemens's return for the 2005 season even more compelling. The answer probably won't be long in coming. "My son, Kacy, told me, `Dad, if you can continue to play, you know you're just going to do it again,' '' a tired but satisfied Clemens said in a 26th-floor suite of the Rihga Royal Hotel here, where he received a phone call around 1:30 a.m. today Japan time (11:30 a.m. yesterday in Boston) informing him that he had won yet another trophy, the eighth major individual award of his career: seven Cys and the American League Most Valuable Player award he won with the Red Sox in 1986. At 42 the oldest pitcher ever to win a Cy Young Award, Clemens remarkably remains on as fast a track as the shinkansen (bullet train) that brought him to Osaka last night from Fukuoka, where his major league all-star teammates remained undefeated on their tour by beating their Japanese counterparts. He said he took special pride in winning a Cy Young Award for all four teams for which he has pitched: three with the Red Sox, two with the Blue Jays, one apiece for the Yankees and Astros. No player has ever won a major award for four different teams. And add this to the list of firsts. On the same day that Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers Association of America, called him to inform him that he had received 23 of a possible 32 first-place votes, Clemens was scheduled to pitch, not the usual task facing a Cy Young winner on the day he wins the award. Talk about working on short rest: Clemens, who said he managed a couple of hours rest between phone calls to his wife, mother, and other friends, was planning to pitch for the second time on this tour, after first helping Adidas open its first store in Osaka, one of numerous appearances he has made, either for business or on behalf of Major League Baseball, in Japan. Clemens is scheduled to return home after pitching, and it was suggested to him that this could be the last time he pitches in a game. Don't count on it. While Clemens said just hours before winning Cy No. 7 that it would be "easy'' to walk away from the game, his comments later seemed to tilt toward a return. "My littlest one is 8,'' Clemens said. "Kody, he does not want dad to play anymore. That's where all the emotions went, from being happy to, 'What do you think, Dad?' The two big boys are old enough and mature enough to say, 'Whatever you want to do, Dad, we're happy with.' But I know they want me to watch them play more.'' Clemens had announced his retirement after the 2003 season, when thousands of flashbulbs popped in Florida's Pro Player Stadium as he walked off the mound following his appearance in Game 4 of the World Series between his Yankees and the Marlins. But then close friend Andy Pettitte signed a free agent deal with the Astros, and Clemens decided to cast his lot as well with his hometown team, whose owner, Drayton McLane, approved an arrangement in which Clemens did not have to make all of the team's trips. That satisfied Clemens's desire to spend more time with his family, his home being just a 15-minute drive from Houston's Minute Maid Park. Money was not a major issue. Clemens agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal, and collected an additional $3.5 million in attendance bonuses when the club passed 3 million at the gate. He also signed a 10-year personal services deal with McLane, which takes effect after he retires. Clemens responded by going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA, his first sub-3.00 ERA in six seasons, helping the Astros make the playoffs despite injuries to Pettitte and another top starter, Wade Miller. ``I could have had one of my biggest winning seasons ever,'' he said, noting that with a little more run support he could have had 24 or 25 wins. ``There were a few times I probably should have told them to take me out of a game and I didn't.'' Clemens allowed one or no runs over seven innings five times without getting a decision. He won his first nine decisions for the Astros and pitched Houston into the postseason by winning his last six decisions. Balloting for the Cy Young award ended before the postseason, but Clemens won twice more for the Astros before taking the loss in Game 7 of the NLCS against the Cardinals. In the voting, Clemens easily outdistanced another 40-something, Arizona'a Randy Johnson (8 first-place votes). Johnson, 41, led the NL in strikeouts with 290, 72 more than the Rocket, and his 2.60 ERA was second-best in the league. In games in which the Diamondbacks scored more than two runs, the Big Unit was 13-2. But pitching for a team that lost 111 games, Johnson's record was 16-14; no pitcher has ever won the Cy Young with as few as 16 wins over a full season. "There will be some decisions to be made in the near future,'' Clemens said. "Yes, [retirement] would be easy for me. It would be hard if I left something behind, or if I felt there was something I hadn't touched.''

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