Legendary U.S. pitcher Roger Clemens ended his short retirement from Major League Baseball on Monday. Clemens signed a one-year deal worth around $5-million to join the Houston Astros.
The Texas native, 41, had said the 2003 season with the New York Yankees would be his last. But the man nicknamed "The Rocket" for his blazing fastball, was persuaded to join his hometown Astros. Roger Clemens' decision came after his close friend and former Yankees' teammate Andy Pettitte signed last month to pitch for Houston.
Astros General Manager Gerry Hunsicker made the official announcement at a Monday afternoon press conference. "The results are official. The Astros have completed this winter's daily double. And Roger Clemens has decided to un-retire and come home and pitch for the good guys for 2004," he said.
Clemens said it is great to have the opportunity to have fun pitching before the home-state fans and bring enjoyment to fellow Texans. "I'm just happy to be here. Obviously, I feel I still have a lot to give, and when I watch these guys put the uniform on, and I get in that dugout, I am going to be excited to get back to work and give everything that I have, so we can become a champion," he said.
He added his decision was made possible by the encouragement and blessing of his family. He said his children gave him an Astros' baseball hat for Christmas, and that that was a hint to start working out again and thinking about coming out of retirement.
Hunsicker is glad he did. "The Rocket is on the pad. It is T-minus-40 days and counting. Welcome home Rocket. We're really excited. We are ready to become champions. So 2004, here we come. It is our turn," he said.
Clemens' last appearance for the Yankees was a memorable one, in Game Four of the World Series against the Florida Marlins. Flashbulbs popped repeatedly, as fans photographed what they thought would be his final pitches.
Clemens is the only six-time Cy Young Award winner for pitching excellence in baseball history. He won 17 while losing nine in 33 starts for the Yankees last season. He was 2-0 in four starts during the playoffs. During the 2003 season, he surpassed 300 career wins, and his lifetime mark is 310 wins against 160 losses. Clemens is third on the all-time Major League strikeout list, with 4,099. He spent his first 13 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, then went to the Toronto Blue Jays for two years, before moving on to New York, where he won World Series titles in 1999 and 2000.
After spending his entire career in the American League, where they have the designated hitter batting for the pitcher, Clemens moves to the National League, where he will have to hit. He'll also be pitching home games in Houston's hitter-friendly ballpark, where 186 homers were hit last season, seventh-most in the major leagues.