Pitching for Astros? Rocket's door open

Updated: December 15, 2003, 7:41 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Future Hall of Fame pitcher Roger Clemens is still retired, for now.

Clemens turned down a burnt orange Hummer on Monday, spurning an offer by a Houston car dealer to take the luxury sport utility vehicle in exchange for joining his hometown Astros by late Monday morning.

The Rocket didn't close the door on the possibility, however.

"You guys are going to have to hang onto your Hummer because nothing's changed," Clemens told classic rock radio station KKRW-FM shortly before the deadline set by the morning show hosts. "I'm retired right now."

Astros owner Drayton McLane isn't closing any doors, either. Having already agreed to a $31.5 million, three-year contract with Andy Pettitte, McLane wouldn't mind adding his former New York Yankees teammate.

"I'd certainly be interested in opening discussions," McLane told The Associated Press on Monday. "He's retired right now so there is no urgency. Andy had to decide if he wanted to return to the Yankees, play for the Astros or go to another team. With Roger, there's not that urgency."

McLane said he'd like to get an exchange going, possibly as soon as the weekend.

"The first thing that has to happen is Roger has to decide if he wants to play next season," McLane said "And if he does, we'd set up a meeting with (Clemens' agents) and Roger."

The Astros gained flexibility with their payroll when they traded closer Billy Wagner and his $8 million salary, then lost much of it when they took on Pettitte's contract. Adding Clemens to the mix would stretch the Astros purse strings even more.

"If Roger is interested, we'd have to see what the economics of it would be," McLane said. "As of now, nothing has changed. We've just got through with signing Andy, and now we're waiting to see what happens next."

The Yankees gave Clemens, 41, a Hummer as a retirement gift, and when he was asked about the possibility of coming out of retirement he joked that he might have to return it. Local disc jockeys Dean and Roger got the idea that they could get him another one.

Car dealer Lee DeMontrond responded to their call Friday by driving the Hummer to Clemens' Houston-area home. He could keep the burnt orange vehicle -- the school color of Clemens' alma mater, the University of Texas -- if he made a decision on the Astros by late Monday morning.

But the deadline passed and Clemens remained retired.

"I'm planning to play a little golf with Mr. (Jeff) Bagwell and Andy's become a recruiter now," Clemens said. "He (Pettitte) and I are going on vacation together later on and we're going to sit down and talk about some things."

Clemens said news of his possible return sparked interest at baseball's winter meetings in New Orleans over the weekend, where he received an award.

"I was approached by about six other teams," Clemens chuckled. "I got offered to be a couple of teams' closer."

Clemens said the addition of his good friend and workout partner to the Astros rotation has him thinking.

"I never expected Andy to be here," Clemens said. "I expected to be flying up to New York to watch him pitch and to play some golf with him and watch him knock down some more numbers up there at Yankee Stadium.

"This definitely has put a different spin on things."

Still, Clemens said he won't rush into a decision.

"I'm just kind of in a holding pattern right now," he said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press