Clemens still hasn't decided if he will play this season

1/31/2006 - MLB Roger Clemens Houston Astros + more

HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens made an unexpected appearance at the start of the Houston Astros' minicamp Monday, pitching batting practice to some of the team's minor-league prospects, including his son Koby.

Clemens, 43, hasn't decided whether he'll play a 23rd season. He led the majors with a 1.87 ERA last year but was plagued by back and hamstring problems late in the season. He limped off the field after two innings in Game 1 of the World Series.

Clemens said Monday his back and hamstring were healed, but he has doubts whether he could last another full season.

"There will be a week I get up and I feel like I can do it again and then the next week, I don't want to get out in the outfield and start running those poles and doing those things," Clemens said. "If last year's World Series was it for me, I'm more than happy. I know we didn't reach our ultimate goal, but it was a lot of fun. I have a lot to think about."

Clemens, a free agent, wasn't offered salary arbitration by the Astros and cannot re-sign with them until May 1. But Monday, Clemens took the mound at Minute Maid Park wearing a black Astros shirt and matching cap as he worked up a sweat pitching for about 20 minutes.

"My body feels great, arm feels good," he said. "I just need the conditioning with my legs. When I have a little extra-long session here, like I was able to throw BP and simulate a couple of hitters, it helps a lot."

Clemens said he didn't overexert himself during Monday's workout, throwing a handful of game-level fastballs. He still was sore afterward.

"Two split-fingers hurt my elbow like you wouldn't believe, and I've got a heartbeat in the back of my shoulder right now," Clemens said.

Clemens planned to throw again Tuesday and Wednesday.

He said his focus now is the World Baseball Classic, not the upcoming regular season. Clemens is on the U.S. roster and said Monday he hopes to tell manager Buck Martinez within 12 days if he can pitch effectively. If he can't, he won't play.

"If I'm going to be active, I want to make a good showing," Clemens said. "It's not an exhibition game, it's the real deal. It's not spring training, where I can get out there and I start getting hammered around, they just leave me out there to get my pitch count in."

Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, a power pitcher like Clemens who retired at 46, expects Clemens to play this season. Ryan works in the Astros' front office and chatted with Clemens before Monday's workout.

"I don't expect him not to pitch because of the competitor he is," Ryan said. "If he can physically do it, I think he'll do it. That's his life."

When Clemens signed with the Astros in January 2004, he also signed a personal services contract that would keep him with the team in some capacity for 10 years after he retires.

Clemens said he showed up Monday mainly to work with the Astros' prospects, a hint of what he'll do after he's finished playing.

"This is my home, whether I play here or not, no matter what, I'm going to come back and work for these kids and be around the organization," Clemens said. "I'll go out and shake hands and see everybody here, but I want to work with the kids behind the scenes in the minor leagues. Right now, that's the only deal I've got."