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Clemens returning to Astros



Published: Fri, January 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Rocket will take home $18 million to pitch for a 22nd season.

HOUSTON (AP) -- Roger Clemens is coming back for one more year -- and is getting the highest salary for a pitcher in baseball history.

The Rocket and the Houston Astros agreed Friday to an $18 million, one-year contract, and the seven-time Cy Young Award winner made the commitment to play for his 22nd major league season.

"I'm ready for the challenge. Here we go again," Clemens said.

Clemens, whose salary tops the $17.5 million Pedro Martinez earned with Boston last year in the option year of his contract, first retired after pitching for the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series. But he changed his mind and agreed on Jan. 12, 2004, to join his hometown Astros, accepting a $5 million, one-year deal that was way below his market price.

Family pressure

The 42-year-old right-hander helped lead the Astros within one win of their first World Series appearance, earning $1,825,000 in bonuses based largely on Houston's home attendance, then said again that he was "99 percent" retired.

But momentum built after he returned earlier this month from a Hawaiian vacation, and he asked for $22 million salary -- matching his uniform number -- when proposed figures for salary arbitration were filed Tuesday. Houston offered $13.5 million, leaving the midpoint at $17.75 million.

"I kind of sat back and laughed at the numbers," he said.

His agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, then negotiated the deal with the Astros on Wednesday and Thursday.

"This came on so fast last night," Clemens said, adding that he would start two-a-day workouts in the next few days. "I'm going to have to get ready to play again.

"I thank my family. Last night there were some smiles, there were some tears," Clemens added, saying that sons Koby and Kory helped talk him into playing again.

"Just remember what it sounded like here, dad, when you took the mound," Clemens said they told him Thursday.

Clemens also is getting the highest one-year contract in baseball history, topping Greg Maddux's $14.75 million deal with Atlanta in 2003.

Clemens, a 10-time All-Star, is 10th on the career wins list with 328, one behind Steve Carlton. Clemens' 4,317 strikeouts are second to Nolan Ryan's 5,714.

His decision to sign with Houston last year was spurred by former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte, who left New York to sign with the Astros. Clemens went 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts, winning his first Cy Young in the NL, but Pettitte hurt an elbow tendon while batting in his first start, was largely ineffective and had season-ending surgery in August.

"Really, we didn't have the opportunity to perform together," said Clemens, who spoke with Pettitte on Friday.




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