Sun, Jan 23, 2005 - Page 23 News List

Clemens to remain active

AP , NEW YORK

Roger Clemens of the Astros pitches to a Braves batter in Atlanta, Georgia on Oct. 6, 2004. Clemens and the Astros agreed Friday to a US$18 million, one-year contract.

PHOTO: EPA

On a big day for Texas, Roger Clemens decided to pitch for the Houston Astros once again and Carlos Delgado pondered an offer to join the Rangers.

Clemens put off retirement for the second straight season, agreeing to an US$18 million, one-year contract with the Astros that gives him the highest salary for a pitcher in baseball history.

"I take a deep breath, and here we go again," Clemens said. "I'm ready for the challenge."

A seven-time Cy Young Award winner and 10-time All-Star, the 42-year-old right-hander helped the Astros come within one win of their first World Series appearance. He got the largest one-year contract in major league history, topping Greg Maddux's US$14.75 million deal with Atlanta in 2003, and became the highest-paid pitcher for the fifth time. Pedro Martinez earned US$17.5 million with Boston last season.

Clemens said sons Koby and Kory helped talk him into playing again.

"Just remember what it sounded like here, dad, when you took the mound and what it sounded like during the playoffs when we were winning," Clemens said they told him. "Baseball captured this city in a so-called football town."

He chided himself for making "poor pitches" in wasting a 2-1 lead in Game 7 of last year's NL championship series against St. Louis.

He also took a shot at the summertime performance of Carlos Beltran, who left to sign for the New York Mets.

"No knock to Carlos, but he didn't do a whole lot -- I mean, he was a tremendous player in September, we needed everybody. He was unbelievable in the playoffs, everybody saw it, the nation saw it," Clemens said. "But who's to say that we're not going to have another one of those guys step up and do it for us again?"

While Clemens was discussing his deal at Minute Maid Park in Houston, the Rangers were talking about their big meeting with Delgado in Puerto Rico. Rangers owner Tom Hicks made an offer that got the attention of the free-agent first baseman.

"Tom Hicks said that he was going to come to Puerto Rico and give it his best shot," Delgado's agent, David Sloane, said in an e-mail. "He did all that and more."

Texas, competing with the New York Mets, Florida and Baltimore, made progress during the four-hour session in Puerto Rico.

"I think they recognize it was a very strong offer, I think they recognize we went certainly farther ... it was more aggressive than anything we talked about before," Hicks said. "I think we made a very compelling offer."

Hicks wouldn't go into details about the offer. He expects Delgado will decide on the Rangers' proposal by the end of the weekend.

Sloane said he expected to talk to Texas again this weekend "in an attempt to sustain the positive momentum we generated today."

A former Rangers star, Alex Rodriguez, also made news Friday, taking a shot at Boston's Curt Schilling as the never-ending Yankees-Red Sox rivalry heated up on a chilly day.

"I just hope he continues to talk about me and my teammates," the New York Yankees third baseman said. "It's going to give us great motivation to beat him up in the future."

Schilling called it a "bush-league play" after Rodriguez was called out for interference in Game 6 of the AL championship series last October. A-Rod, trying to beat out an infield dribbler, slapped the ball away from pitcher Bronson Arroyo near first base.

"To me it was just odd, because I mean we beat him a couple of times during the year and he was crying on the bench," Rodriguez said of Schilling. "And then he lost Game 1 and he wouldn't talk or anything. And obviously, he wins Game 6 and then he's still talking until today. So it's just something we as players have been accustomed to. But it's something I'm not worried about."

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