Done deal: Rocket returns to Astros

Done deal: Rocket returns to Astros

HOUSTON -- Retirement and the Hall of Fame will have to wait a little longer for Roger Clemens, because The Rocket has decided to go on one final mission for Houston.

No. 22 agreed to terms Wednesday on a one-year deal with the Astros to come back for a 23rd season, or at least the remaining four months of the current season.

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner ended his seven-month retirement by accepting a deal that will pay him approximately $12.8 million -- the pro-rated value of his $22,000,022 seasonal contract -- to pitch for the Astros for the balance of the current season. Until he joins the Astros, Clemens is on a Minor League contract valued at $322,000 annually.

"Here we go again," Clemens said. "I'm going to give it a shot. I don't necessarily know that I need to or that I want to, but I'm committed."

Astros general manager Tim Purpura and Randy Hendricks, the agent who along with brother Alan represents Clemens, met late Tuesday night to iron out the contract details.

"There was no deal done yesterday, but I got a hold of Tim early in the evening and said, 'Why don't you come by my house and we can talk about this deal?' We got it done at about midnight last night; I talked to Roger real late. Clearly the other three teams [pursuing Clemens] -- Boston, [the New York Yankees] and Texas -- did terrific jobs. It was a tough decision for Roger."

The decision came after months of soul searching by Clemens and weeks of waiting by the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox, who had tendered offers to the right-hander in recent weeks. The Rangers were also in the hunt until they were informed on Friday that they were no longer in the running for Clemens.

"This has been a rather interesting process," Purpura said. "In some ways, it's somewhat of a historic process. There's not many situations in Major League Baseball where a player at this point in time made a decision to come back."

Clemens said it was a "very difficult decision" and that all four teams made it tough to choose.

"A piece of my heart's in each of those cities that I've played," Clemens said. "I think all four teams come September are going to be right in the middle of things. I've got deep roots in that Boston tradition up there. I left nothing in the bag when I was in New York. But the bottom line is winning and the success we've had here the last few years. I had the opportunity to come home. I seized that moment. You don't want to look in the past, but you've got to give it some merit."

Clemens will report to Class A Lexington, where his son Koby plays, on Sunday and make a start there on June 6. If all goes well, he will pitch at Double-A Corpus Christi on June 11, Triple-A Round Rock on June 16 and, if he passes those tests, Clemens will make his first start for the Astros on June 22 against the Minnesota Twins.

"I have to now take the next step to get my body ready to come back, to be effective, win games and do what I'm used to doing, and that's being extremely competitive at a high level," Clemens said. "My body feels good. Condition-wise, I'm great. I need some game experience. I haven't felt soreness in my legs like actual game situations."

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Clemens' arrival couldn't come at a better time for the Astros, who have lost 14 of their last 22 games entering Wednesday's series finale at St. Louis. Houston's offense has been inconsistent, but the Astros are also in dire need of more pitching.

"Last time I checked, we were in the World Series last year," Clemens said. "It's the same team if not better. I know I've got my work cut out. I've got to do it step-by-step, get into a game situation. I push my body hard, but I still need to get some competitive innings. I still need to get what I call stressful innings. I call them stressful innings because at my age, it's stressful."

Clemens was 13-8 with a Major League-leading 1.87 ERA in 32 regular-season starts for the Astros last year. He should provide an immediate boost to the rotation, though Purpura said it was uncertain which starter Clemens would replace.

Clemens and the Astros could both benefit from a shorter seasonal workload. Injuries slowed the 43-year-old late last season. He lasted only two innings in Houston's Game 1 loss to the Chicago White Sox in the World Series due to a hamstring injury. Clemens, who turns 44 in August, has been working out with Koby, who is rehabbing from hand surgery.

Clemens, 31-12 with a 2.43 ERA over the last two years with Houston, was not offered arbitration by the Astros during the winter, making him ineligible to re-sign with Houston before May 1.

That left the door open for other suitors, but Clemens decided to participate in the World Baseball Classic while he pondered his future.

"I don't know if I'd be here if it wasn't for my Spring Training -- the World [Baseball Classic] games. I was able to get a little bit of a break. And probably, without question, my oldest one was able to come home and rehab, have surgery. It got my body moving."

The four finalists pursued Clemens diligently, but in the end, the hometown Astros were able to convince the 11-time All-Star to take another shot in Houston.

Now that's it a done deal, Clemens says the ball is in his court. Can he go through the grind one more time?

"Physically, I think I've got a chance," Clemens said. "Mentally, it's going to be tough."

The Astros don't see it as a gamble.

Clemens has more career wins than any other living pitcher, ranking ninth all-time with 341 career victories. In 22 seasons with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros, Clemens is 341-172 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,502 career strikeouts. His strikeout total is second only to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan (5,714) on the all-time list.

"He immediately makes our staff better, not just what he brings when he's on the field, but what he can teach the young pitchers on our staff and the example he sets," Purpura said. "We're extremely happy to have him back, whether it's a few months or a few weeks. He is going to help us immensely."

Jim Molony is a writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.