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Clemens craves October run

Clemens craves October run

NEW YORK -- Roger Clemens is no closer to deciding where, or if, he'll pitch this season. But he knows when he would want to: October.

Speaking at a St. John's University sports banquet in New York, baseball's most coveted 44-year-old said that he still loves to compete, but falling short of the postseason -- as his Astros did in 2006 -- is not an option.

"I've got to tell you, you put your body through a lot of punishment and you come up one game short like we did last year, for me, it was a waste of time," Clemens said.

"When you don't have an 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. You want to have that feeling of being in the playoffs."

Clemens has stated that he would only pitch for one of three teams in 2007 -- the Astros, the Red Sox or the Yankees, all of whom have ties close to his heart.

Clemens applauded the Yankees' signing of Andy Pettitte, and kidded the left-hander that he should have inked a three-year contract to ensure his presence for the opening of the new Yankee Stadium.

But as for Clemens' own Bronx return? Clemens said he isn't sold yet, even though he has been coaching Pettitte, a fellow Texan, on a regular basis to fine-tune his New York mindset.

"It won't make it any easier for me to come back," Clemens said. "To do that, I'm going to have to disappear. I'm going to listen [to offers] like I always do, but ... I'm my own worst critic, and I just don't want to let anybody down.

"I'm going to be 45 years old, and I have expectations, too. I expect my body to do certain things. It might not be as crucial if I wasn't a power pitcher."

Clemens' agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks, have been passing along semi-regular updates on media speculation. For now, Clemens insists that he has still not made a decision on his future.

"I'm nowhere near ready to play baseball at this time," Clemens said. "I'm in good shape, but I'm nowhere near the type of playing shape that I want to be in if I'm going to try and play another season. That would take another huge commitment on myself."

Clemens said that part of the difficulty in deciding whether to pitch lies within his own personal standards. He believes he can handle the physical stress of another Major League season, but the mental aspect is more daunting.

For a potential playoff contender, there would be no mulligans offered just because of Clemens' advanced age or his late start to the year.

"Mentally, I beat myself up to perform," Clemens said. "Once I do sign a contract to continue to play, they don't care how old I am. They want results, and I want results also."

Forget the devastating splitfinger, at least for the moment. As of late, Clemens' Hall of Fame-bound right arm has been used only to lob hit-me fastballs about 60 feet, six inches.

On Monday and Tuesday, Clemens pitched 45 sweat-soaked minutes of batting practice to Astros Minor Leaguers -- including his son, Koby -- at Houston's Minute Maid Park.

Clemens plans on being in Spring Training with the Astros, part of a personal services contract with the club that he is honoring, and is keeping up with the winter movements of all three teams that he would pitch for.

Beyond that, Clemens knows that there is a very strong possibility that injuries could prompt his telephone to ring in May. But Clemens said he has no intention of pitching that early.

"I think all three clubs are planning on winning, with or without me," Clemens said. "But if somebody goes down and I'm feeling good, I don't know what my decision is going to be yet.

"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 [in New York]. I don't think it's going to happen."

Saying that he believes he can still pitch at a high level, Clemens said his decision to walk away would likely be much easier if not for the phone calls he has received from teammates in New York, Houston and Boston, all urging him to come back for one more year.

"I wish it was an easy decision. I'm failing at retirement," Clemens said. "Let's just face it; I'm failing miserably at it."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["hot_stove" ] }
{"content":["hot_stove" ] }