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Clemens to Astros?

Posted by David Lefort, Boston.com Staff  May 30, 2006 05:02 PM

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The Astros today refuted a report that Roger Clemens had officially decided to sign with Houston, but the Red Sox tonight were resigned to the fact that the Rocket would do just that, a source close to the negotiations told The Boston Globe’s Gordon Edes.

Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane rebuffed a Newsday report that Clemens had agreed to a deal with his team, telling the Houston Chronicle “that’s total news to us.”

Clemens' agent, Randy Hendricks, also denied it.

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

Hendricks said, however, that Clemens was "very close with a final decision."

Newsday reported on its website tonight that the Houston Astros will announce this week (the original Newsday report this afternoon stated that an announcement could come as soon as today) that Clemens will sign a pro-rated one-year deal. The report did not cite any sources for this information.

Astros owner Drayton McLane told the Houston Chronicle today (the story was posted around 4:30 p.m.) that “we haven’t finished the deal yet. They told us a month ago or longer that Roger has to make the decision that he has to come back.”

McLane also told the Chronicle that they were surprised by the Newsday report because they were still waiting for an answer from Clemens’ agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks.

“We’ve been standing by,” McLane told the Chronicle. “[GM] Tim [Purpura] or I have talked to him every two or three days. They haven’t given us a decision. They haven’t said a word to us about it. That’s complete news to me. We haven’t finalized the deal yet nor has he told us. Boy that’s total news to us.”

The Astros, however, remained optimistic.

"Obviously, we're still hopeful. But nothing has been determined," 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.

Newsday reported that Clemens will ink a pact believed to be worth about $3.5 million per month, which could total about $10.5 million for the rest of the season, depending on when Clemens returned.

Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice told ESPN, "I'm hearing that it will get done. It will get done in the next 24-48 hours."

For the last few months, Clemens was believed to be deciding between retirement or playing for either the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, or Rangers.

According to MLB.com, Rangers owner Tom Hicks said he had been told by Randy Hendricks that Clemens will not be signing with his team.

"We gave it our best shot," Hicks told MLB.com. "I got a call from Randy Hendricks on Friday and he'd been asked by Roger to convey his thanks but he would not be pitching for the Rangers.

"I'm not sure where he's going. I was told we were not the only team that was getting that call. I was told the family played a large issue so I assume he'll be pitching for Houston."

The Red Sox have yet to publicly respond to these reports.

The 43-year-old played in Houston, where he makes his full-time home, for the last two seasons, winning the Cy Young in 2004 and leading the team to the World Series last season, posting a 13-8 record and career-low 1.87 ERA. The Astros were 26-26 and 7.5 games behind the NL Central-leading Cardinals going into Tuesday night's game at St. Louis.

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."

He 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.

Sox fans had been hopeful the Rocket would choose a return engagement to Boston, where he pitched from 1984-1996.

We'll have more information as it comes in ...

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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