Roger Clemens finally announced his decision today, agreeing to a one-year contract with the Houston Astros worth $5 million. Clemens, who was originally intending on retiring after the 2003 season, decided to come back and join his friend and teammate Andy Pettitte in Houston. Pettitte signed back in December and had been lobbying for Clemens to join him.
The Rocket's plan was never really to retire, exactly. He originally wanted to go for the gold and pitch for Team USA in the Olympics in Athens next summer. But Team USA was eliminated in the preliminary rounds and won't be going to Athens. With that plan foiled, Clemens decided to return to the majors for what looks to be his final season (again).
Clemens has never pitched for a National League team, and there used to be speculation that, if he did pitch in the NL, he would be assailed with hard fastballs under his chin. Clemens had the reputation as a head-hunter, but it is unlikely he'll see any direct retaliation as an Astro. The right-hander, now 41 years old, spent his first 13 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. He left as a free agent in 1997 and spent two years in Toronto before he was traded to the Yankees for the 1999 season.
He is 310-160 in his career with a 3.19 ERA and is third on the all-time strikeouts list with 4,099.
First baseman Tony Clark has agreed to a one-year, $750,000 deal with the Yankees to back up Jason Giambi and be a reserve player. Clark, 31, was an All-Star in 2001 and spent last season with the Mets filling in for the injured Mo Vaughn. He amassed 16 homeruns in just 254 at bats in 2003.
Clark was one of the league's premier power hitters in the late 90's while he was playing for the Detroit Tigers. He reached career highs in homeruns and batting average in 1998 when he hit .291 with 34 round-trippers. The switch-hitter was the second overall pick in the 1990 draft. But a bad back has hampered his productivity over the last four seasons.
In a reserve role with the Yankees, Clark should perform well. He can hit left-handed pitching and might fall into a loose platoon role with left-handed outfielder Kenny Lofton, who the Yankees signed recently to a two-year deal.
Two-time Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson has agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Texas Rangers. Nelson came back to the Yankees during the 2003 season in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees sent Armando Benitez and cash to Seattle for Nelson. The right-hander has had a productive career and is 46-39 with a 3.32 ERA in 714 games. He is best known for his looping slider that is very tough on right-handed batters.
Nelson was involved in a fight in the Yankees' bullpen during Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS between New York and Boston. He and outfielder Karim Garcia got into it with a groundskeeper, and the incident is now in court with both players having charges of assault filed against them.
Nelson went 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA this season, with eight saves and 14 holds. He has 31 saves and 158 holds in his career.