Forum Spin Doctor
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - On his first day at Houston Astros camp, Roger Clemens threw pitches and hit grounders to his son, Koby.
That's about all the baseball he feels like playing right now.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner is no closer to deciding whether he'll play a 24th major league season.
"Everybody knows where I stand. I don't care to play, but if that decision comes up again, then it's a big decision on me," Clemens said Thursday. "It has nothing to do with anybody else. It's a decision on me to go out and perform."
If he comes back, the 44-year-old pitching great said he'll choose between his hometown Astros, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Clemens said he's not "milking" his decision in search of the highest bidder. He also said he'll have no problem walking away when the time comes.
"It's 10 times harder to make the decision to come back and try to do it again," he said. "I love what I do and I have high expectations to perform. When I don't, it's disappointing."
Clemens is on an easier workout regimen now than he was when he arrived at spring training last year to prepare for the World Baseball Classic.
He said Thursday he feels "very good" and "strong," but knows that the older he gets, the harder it will be to get himself prepared for another season.
"At one point, it's not going to work out," he said. "These are the questions I have to ask myself, that's why I push myself so hard to find out before I get to that moment."
Clemens said he'll wait until his agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks, get an offer he can't refuse before he amps up his workout regimen. And even then, he might have doubts.
"I don't know what's going to happen two months from now," Clemens said. "I could get into the middle of a training session and know that I just can't do it. That would be the easiest call for me to make."
Koby Clemens, a third baseman starting his second full season in the Astros' minor league system, said his father told him last week he was "80-20" leaning toward not coming back. Then again, after the 2003 season Clemens said there was a 99 percent chance he would retire.
"It's a pretty serious number right now," said Koby, the oldest of Clemens' four sons. "I go, 'Dad, right now, on the spot, if they asked you are you coming back or not, what are your percentages now?' He said, `80-20.' I go, 'Coming back or sitting out the year?' And he goes, 'Probably sitting out the year.' That was it."
On Thursday, Clemens wore a black Astros cap, black Astros T-shirt and white pants. But he said that doesn't mean he's favoring them over the Yankees or Red Sox.
The fact that his son plays in the Astros' farm system doesn't give them an edge, he said.
"He's concentrating on what he needs to do," Clemens said. "He doesn't really care either way. That was the first time he really asked me, the other day in the gym."
Clemens said he has no favorite team right now, saying he still feels just as attached to Toronto, where he played in 1997 and '98.
"I've been real fortunate," he said. "I've tried to hold up my end of the deal with all four clubs I've been with. I still feel a part of all four of them."
While in Florida, Clemens says he is content to hang around the spring training complex and advise younger players. He'll also host some charity events.
"What you saw me do today is what I plan on doing for the next month," he said. "Right now, it's going to be a slow, dead period. I'm doing what I love to do. I'm going to be running around here, throwing batting practice. I'll throw BP to the big guys if they need it. There won't be a lot of moss growing under my feet."
Clemens, who signed a $22 million contract with the Astros to pitch half of last season, didn't start in a major league game until June 22. He finished 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA in 19 starts.
If he returns, Clemens said he won't pitch until at least May. He said how the three teams are doing at that time won't affect his decision.
But Clemens said he'll only come back if he feels as though he can help one of them contend.
"You come back to win, you come back to win it all," he said. "Your goals are set really high. I feel very flattered that those three teams still make an occasional phone call to the Hendricks brothers to ask where I'm at."