Clemens speculation time has arrived

Clemens speculation time is here

HOUSTON -- Now that Andy Pettitte is officially heading back to the Yankees, the next logical question is: What's next for Roger Clemens?

While Clemens' official announcement that he will hold off retirement for a fourth consecutive year likely won't arrive until sometime next year, interested teams can safely assume Clemens will return for the same half-season deal that he enjoyed last year when he re-upped with the Astros at the end of May, only to make his first start on June 22.

As was the case last year, the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros will be at the top of the list of teams whom Clemens will consider for 2007. In past years, the Astros have been the clear-cut favorites. That is no longer the case now that Pettitte is headed back to New York.

Clemens followed his buddy to Houston three years ago. It's not out of the realm of possibility that he could do the same this time, with Yankee Stadium serving as his final destination.

If Clemens knows what he wants to do, he's not letting on. Neither is his agent, Randy Hendricks, who did drop strong hints that retirement was probably not an option, yet.

"I don't know what Roger will do," Hendricks said. "We have this personal tug-of-war we go through. He says, 'I think this is it. I'm going out the way I want to.' I say, 'You're too good to quit. What are you talking about? You had the best ERA again in the Major Leagues, you just didn't have enough innings to be the champion. You're too good to quit.'

"He says, 'What do I have to do? Go 4-14 to quit?' I go, 'Well, I can't ever let you quit like that. I can't let you go out like that.' Then we start laughing. We started that game a few years ago."

Hendricks added that if Clemens were an average pitcher, he would recommend that his client retire, but noting how well the short season worked for Clemens in 2006, Hendricks said, "I will recommend that he do that again."

If Clemens does pitch in New York or Boston, it's unlikely he would receive the same "freedom clause" that the Astros have afforded the future Hall of Famer since he signed in 2004. Clemens was not required to attend games when he wasn't scheduled to pitch, both at home and on the road.

But if Clemens were to pitch only a half-season, it's possible he would not mind putting forth the same full-time schedule as his teammates. After taking Spring Training off as well as the first half of the season, taking five or six road trips with the expectation of perfect attendance may not be a burden for the 22-year veteran.

When asked what he thought Clemens would do next year, Pettitte shrugged, saying that he's seen Clemens three times this offseason -- all at golf tournaments -- and that he never discussed his own future, let alone Clemens'.

"I don't know what Roger's going to do," Pettitte said. "I worry about what Andy Pettitte has to do and go from there. Roger's the greatest baseball player to ever play this game, and I've been saying that and I think he's proven that, with what he's done in this ballpark, in this era, pitching. He's a grown man also. What he does is his decision."

It's likely next year will bring forth the same speculation surrounding the same teams, minus the Rangers, whom Hendricks said he hasn't heard from this offseason.

"The very same teams we talked about would be considered," Hendricks said. "Roger is absolutely locked in on the Astros as far as his post-playing career. He's very fond of everybody. He likes [Astros owner] Drayton [McLane]; he likes his teammates.

"The Astros have been exceptional in so many ways. The first year, we took a tremendous discount. The next year, we said we'd like market value, and they did that and they did that last year. I can't begin to say how much we appreciate the consideration the Astros have extended. They made it so easy on Roger and his family."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.