Clemens shows up at Astros minicamp, sidesteps steroid questions

Updated: January 30, 2008, 7:20 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens bounced up the steps of the Houston Astros dugout Wednesday morning and faced a group of wide-eyed minor leaguers that included his oldest son.

For three relaxing hours at the team's minicamp, he was free from questions about steroid use, the Mitchell report or his pending appearance before a congressional committee.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens
AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Brett CoomerRoger Clemens planned to throw batting practice and talk to Astros prospects at Houston's minicamp.

He was back in his element, baffling hitters with sliders and instructing pitchers on simple mechanics.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I love to do these things. If I can share any insight with these young kids, it's all the better."

Clemens sidestepped questions about accusations he used performance-enhancing drugs, laid out in the Mitchell report based on information from Brian McNamee, his former personal trainer.

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner has been invited to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for a deposition or transcribed statement next Tuesday and public testimony eight days later. McNamee and former teammates Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch also have been invited along with former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski.

"I won't even discuss that," Clemens said. "We're handling that the right way. I've already done everything I've wanted to say, media-wise, on that."

Clemens said he was looking forward to meeting with the committee and reiterated the toll the allegations have taken on his family.

"I'm getting ready to go through the process," he said. "I get a chance to say my piece again. That's really all I can say. Everybody is doing well. We're grinding away and doing what we have to do."

Clemens, who pitched for the Astros from 2004-06, lives in Houston, and the Astros kept an open invitation for him to participate in the minicamp, a precursor to spring training next month. Clemens has a personal services contract with the team that starts following his retirement as a player.

Astros owner Drayton McLane said he was "pleasantly surprised" that Clemens attended the minicamp.

"He seemed to relax and enjoy himself," McLane said. "I think it really lifted the spirits of our young players. I visited with several of them and they said that was a great thrill."

Clemens' oldest son, Koby, is a catcher in the Astros farm system and is participating in the camp. Not even Koby was sure whether his father would show this week.

Clemens said the attention focused on him now was never going to deter him. He was planning to come back on Thursday.

"There was no decision," he said. "I was coming out whenever I could make time. This is what I enjoy doing."

Clemens threw for about 30 minutes from behind a screen. Most of the batters whiffed at least once, even after Clemens would call out what kind of pitch he was throwing.

Russ Dixon, an infielder, homered to right, then sheepishly put his head down to avoid eye contact with the pitcher.

"He was taking it easy on us," Dixon said. "I mean, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't trying to show my stuff. It's an exciting opportunity."

Koby launched the first pitch he saw from his father off the base of the right-field wall. Later, Clemens threw him a breaking ball and Koby swung and missed.

Brandon Backe, expected to start for the Astros this season, pitched when Clemens was finished. He threw about 40 pitches, then Clemens gave him advice off the mound on the first-base side.

Afterward, Clemens spoke to the minor leaguers in the Astros clubhouse.

"My biggest talk to them is, 'If you can handle failing, you're going to be all right, because you're going to do a lot of it,'" Clemens said. "You have to pick yourself up off the ground and go forward."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press