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Rocket boost? Clemens says he's 'failing at retirement'

NEW YORK -- Roger Clemens talked about his plight and
laughed.

"I'm failing at retirement," he said. "Let's just face it.
I'm failing miserably at it."

The 44-year-old right-hander, unsure whether to retire or return
for a 24th major league season, was the keynote speaker for the St.
John's winter baseball banquet on Wednesday night.

If he does pitch -- and it sounds as if he will -- Clemens will
choose among his hometown Houston Astros, the New York Yankees and
the Boston Red Sox.

"I think if it wasn't for more than a handful of phone calls
from my teammates, not only my teammates here, but in Houston and
the guys in Boston, I don't think I'd take it to heart as much,"
he said. "It would be real easy to step away and be done with
it."

Clemens threw batting practice in Houston for the Astros this
week, mostly to minor leaguers.

"I probably threw 45 minutes of BP on Monday and again on
Tuesday," he said. "It's supposed to be good for your heart. I'd
rather have a glass of wine."

Clemens didn't start his major league season last year until
June 22. Plagued by poor run support, he went 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA
in 19 starts.

"I probably threw 45 minutes of BP ... It's supposed to be good for your heart. I'd
rather have a glass of wine."
--Roger Clemens

This year, he might begin a few weeks earlier -- but only a few
weeks.

"None of the teams are interested in seeing me before May, and
that's great," he said. "I don't have an interest in playing
right now in May."

With 348 wins, seven Cy Young Awards, one MVP, 11 All-Star
selections and two World Series titles, Clemens doesn't need to
return for more accomplishments. He just enjoys winning.

"You put your body through a lot of punishment and then you
come up one game short, like we did last year, for me it was a
waste of time," he said. "When you don't have the opportunity to
go to the playoffs and have a chance to win, it's a waste of time
for me. At this stage and point in my life and career, that's all
you're looking for."

Clemens spent the last three seasons with his hometown Astros
following five years with the Yankees.

With Houston, he got to spend time on the field with his son,
Koby, an Astros' minor leaguer. The Rocket didn't have to always be
with the major league team on days he didn't pitch.

"It's been overstated, like I pitch and I'm never there,"
Clemens said. "When I'm not there, it's not the freedom of being
home, I'm out working and doing the things I love to do. I'm
usually with one of the other minor leagues in the organization,
helping some young kid chase his dream."

Clemens planned to see some of his former Yankees teammates this
week. He expects them to push for a return to pinstripes, following
the example of close friend Andy Pettitte, who played alongside him
in the Bronx and Houston.

"I'm sure they're going to be beating on me pretty hard,"
Clemens said.

He plans to travel from Houston to Yankee Stadium early in the
season to watch Pettitte pitch. Already, he wants Pettitte to stay
with the Yankees until at least 2009.

"He has to open that new stadium," Clemens said. "He just
rolled his eyes at me on that one."

Not retired, not active, Clemens is a target for the Yankees,
Astros and Red Sox. He is a coveted commodity in a twilight zone,
the $22 million man without a team.

"I hope that they all get off to a great start and I can just
fade away and come and watch some ballgames up here," Clemens
said. "I don't think that's going to happen."