Notes: Clemens leans toward retirement
Rocket gives 20 percent chance that he will play in 2007
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It's a far cry from the 99.9 percent rate Roger Clemens has quoted in the last few offseasons, and if we're to take The Rocket at his word, it looks like he truly is leaning toward retirement.
During an interview with KRIV-TV, a local television station in Houston, on Thursday, Clemens said there is only a 20 percent chance he'll play in 2007.
"Koby asked me last night when we were working out, he was doing more of a workout than I was," Clemens told KRIV, referring to his eldest son. "I still told him 80-20 that I wasn't going to play."
If he does decide to play, Clemens will be courted by three teams: the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox. Recent comments from The Rocket hint that he'll be keeping his eye on the standings as he ponders picking a team, so anyone struggling right out of the gate probably won't have much of a chance to land him.
"The teams that are involved, I think they've got really good clubs that are together, and if somebody stubs their toe and my phone rings in May, I might have to think about it," Clemens told KRIV.
Clemens, speaking from the grand opening of the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza, which houses the Roger Clemens Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance, added that he's not trying to cause trouble for the teams that may want him, or for the fans.
"I find it comical," Clemens said. "We get little notes at my foundation about people saying they wish I would make up my mind and decide because I am leaving people hanging. I'm not leaving anybody hanging. I don't want to play," Clemens said.
Contract talk: General manager Tim Purpura has had informal conversations with Jason Jennings' agent, Casey Close, but so far, the two sides have not begun negotiating a possible long-term contract for the right-hander.
"I called Casey Close some weeks ago and said, 'Where do you guys stand on this?'" Purpura said. "They're open to discussing it, but are not in a hurry, and we're open to discussing it but are not in a hurry."
Jennings, a Texas native and Baylor alum, is a free agent after the 2007 season and the Astros at this point are very interested in retaining their No. 2 starter. But hard-core negotiations appear to be on the back burner.
"I think there's some advantage to both sides to letting a player come in here, kind of feel things out, get comfortable with us and us get comfortable with him," Purpura said. "If you're talking about a long-term extension, you want it to be a good fit.
"I believe this club sells itself in a lot of ways. The character and makeup of the clubhouse, the organization, the commitment to winning from ownership ... all of those things factor into a player wanting to be here."
Still, the economics of baseball are unforgiving, and judging from the lucrative deals handed out to pitchers this offseason, even if Jennings has a mediocre year, his asking price will be steep.
"It is what it is," Purpura said. "I can't change it. It's just an evaluation we have to make. If we do get into contract negotiations, this is what the expectations are, and if we feel like we can talk in those ranges and those dollars, we'll talk. If we don't feel like we can't, we won't. But we've always been able to get it done [with other free agents]. We had a lot of flexibility this offseason and we were able to do some things."
Minor League mini-camp: Approximately 40 Minor Leaguers -- 18 pitchers and 22 position players -- will report to Spring Training on Feb. 22 for a short mini-camp, similar to the recent Elite Camps held at Minute Maid Park.
Koby Clemens, a third baseman in the Astros' system, will be one of the participants. It's likely his dad will show up to throw some batting practice at some point.
The mini-camp gives the organization's prospects more one-on-one time with the coaches before the influx of players pour into the Kissimmee Complex in early March.
"The whole idea, at least for the pitchers, is to get guys throwing in front of us in better weather, and in smaller groups," said director of pitching development Dewey Robinson. "Once Spring Training starts, it's hard to spend a lot of individual time with these guys."
Odds and ends: Unusually chilly temperatures prompted manager Phil Garner to start workouts later on Saturday, at 10 a.m. instead of 9. "I saw it was going to be in the 30's, so I thought we'd just push it back an hour," Garner said. ... Garner will be absent from camp on Sunday, but for good reason. His daughter, Bethany, is getting married that night at Disney World. ... The first day of workouts went by without a hitch on Friday, but Garner was hesitant to mention anyone who may have caught his eye during the bullpen sessions. "The one thing I don't want to have in Spring Training is a setback, because somebody tried to throw too hard," he said. "If I say, 'Man, this guy looked really good, and some kid reads that and says, 'Gee whiz, I can step it up a little bit, so I'll impress tomorrow.' I don't want that to happen. I don't want to be impressed right now."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.