Winter Meetings: Clemens accepts arbitration

<b>ANAHEIM –</b> If Roger Clemens pitches again, it'll be for the Houston Astros. <br><br> The Astros announced Saturday that the 42-year-old right-hander has accepted an offer of arbitration from the team. The move automatically places Clemens on the club's 40-man roster.

"This certainly makes a statement about how Roger feels about the Houston Astros," GM Tim Purpora said. "He's a tremendous influence not only to our clubhouse but also to our organization."

The move appears to be as much about timing as a goodwill gesture. Without accepting arbitration, Clemens would have only had until Dec. 19 to make a determination on his baseball future.

"Roger has indicated to us that he intends to make the decision by mid-January," agent Randy Hendricks said. "Given that he's undecided, we thought there was no reason not to accept arbitration.

If Clemens decides he does want to pitch, the Astros would have to sign him to a contract through negotiations, or they could do so via salary arbitration. If he does decide to retire, Clemens will automatically join the Astros' staff as a special consultant, a condition of the contract he signed with the club before the 2004 season.

"It's just a matter of whether he wants to crank it up," Hendricks said.

Earlier this week, Clemens told reporters that he felt he'd be able to pitch if he wanted to, but wasn't ready to make that decision.

"I feel like I know my body and what it would take to get ready," he said. "Physically, if I made the decision on that, I could do it. But mentally, I'm gassed."

Clemens won his seventh Cy Young award in 2004, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA in his first season in the National League.

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