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Clemens shows up at Astros minicamp, sidesteps steroid questions

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.

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."