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Saturday, December 11, 2004
No decision has been made

Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Roger Clemens accepted the Astros' offer of salary arbitration Saturday, meaning he will either play for Houston next season or retire.

Roger Clemens
Starting Pitcher
Houston Astros
33 18 4 0 218 2.98

Clemens said last week that he was leaning toward retirement. His agent, Randy Hendricks, said the seven-time Cy Young Award winner probably will make his decision between Jan. 5-20.

If Clemens decides to play in 2005, the pitcher and the Astros either will agree to a contract or his salary will be determined by an arbitrator.

"It certainly makes a statement to us about how Roger feels about the Houston Astros," new general manager Tim Purpura said. "Our interest is sincere and we'd certainly love to have him back."

By accepting the arbitration offer, the 42-year-old right-hander is no longer a free agent and is considered a signed player on the Astros' roster under baseball rules. He had a $5 million base salary and earned a total of $6,825,000 last season, including bonuses.

Clemens went 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts, and his salary likely would be at least double next year if he plays.

"If I had to decide today, I'd say I'm not playing," Clemens said Thursday. "But I'm not saying that. My wife and family want me to wait until after I take a vacation before I make a decision. Three of my sons say there's no way they want me to come back and one of them wants me to. But I think he just likes the buffets they have at the games. So we'll have to see."

Clemens helped Houston come within one win of its first NL pennant, wasting a lead against St. Louis in Game 7 of the NL championship series.

"It's just a matter of whether he wants to crank it up," said Hendricks, who interpreted Clemens' statements as meaning: "He physically could do it but was mentally gassed."

Clemens won three Cy Youngs with Boston (1986-87, 1991), two with Toronto (1997-98), one with the Yankees (2001) and one with Houston (2004), becoming the oldest winner. He is the first player to win BBWAA awards with four teams and the fourth to win Cy Youngs in both leagues, joining Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

With a 328-164 record, Clemens is 10th on the career wins list, and his 4,317 strikeouts are second to Nolan Ryan's 5,714.

The Astros are still hoping to entice free-agent center fielder Carlos Beltran to return. This week, Clemens' close friend, Andy Pettitte, began throwing for the first time at Minute Maid since having surgery on his left elbow in August.

Pettitte threw about 30 pitches. He plans to throw about three times a week over the next month.

"Right now, it is just like baby steps," he said. "I've got no pain. If there was pain, I wouldn't be throwing."

Clemens said the future of Beltran and Pettitte might influence his decision.

"There's no doubt, the goals of the team will be a big part of the decision of what I will do," Clemens said. "I'm a season-ticket holder, so I'll be here whether I play or not."