Clemens still leaning toward retirement

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Roger Clemens made it to Opening Day -- as a spectator -- and the seven-time Cy Young Award winner said he still is leaning toward retirement.

"That's where I am right now," Clemens said Monday before watching the Texas Rangers play the Boston Red Sox. "Obviously, it's Opening Day and I'm about to put a golf visor on and I'm going to enjoy a ballgame."

Wearing jeans and gray cowboy boots, Clemens sat in a field-level box as a guest of Rangers owner Tom Hicks, a fellow University of Texas alumnus who sat immediately to his left. The Longhorns' national football championship was honored at the game.

In the middle of the first inning, Clemens was introduced and shown on the big screen. He waved and tipped his cap to the cheers, leading to more cheers. It turned into a standing ovation, prompting Clemens to tip his hat again and wave several more times.

"I'm going to kick back and watch some baseball. I'm not ready to commit," said Clemens, adding he hoped to also visit Fenway Park as a spectator. "Even being at home and pitching in Houston was a tough grind. ... Right now, I'm not interested in getting in there and locking in on this.

"If it works out and I can just fade away, that's what's going to happen," he said.

Clemens said his arm feels great but that he's not sure he wants to go through a 23rd major-league season.

"I don't think I would miss it a lot," he said.

Before the start of the game, the 43-year-old Rocket spoke with general manager Theo Epstein and other officials from the Red Sox, the team he started his career with. Clemens said they just told him the door was open if he wanted to return to Boston.

Clemens also chatted briefly with Red Sox manager Terry Francona and Rangers manager Buck Showalter, as well as players from both teams.

The Red Sox, Rangers, New York Yankees and Houston Astros -- the hometown team Clemens helped lead to their first World Series last season -- are all interested in signing Clemens if he decides to pitch this season.

"There's really nothing to talk about until Roger decides if he wants to play, and if so what team does he want to play for," said Clemens' agent, Randy Hendricks. "All four teams have a keen interest. No question they want to sign Roger."

Hendricks said one of his goals "has been to shorten the season" for Clemens but that the pitcher would need to make a decision about pitching by July.

"I think the All-Star break is about the time you've got to decide," Hendricks said. "I don't think he can come out and [start] in August or September. He understands it."

Houston can't re-sign Clemens before May 1. It seems unlikely that Clemens would pitch for anybody before that time.

Clemens pitched last month for the United States in the World Baseball Classic.

"The process was long and hard on me," Clemens said. "When everybody was out having a good time, I'm running trying to get my body ready."

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels called last week to inquire if Clemens was ready to pitch now. Adam Eaton, the No. 2 starter in Texas behind Kevin Millwood, strained a tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand and is out up to three months.

Asked if that offer was tempting, Clemens responded, "I don't know how to answer that."

Hicks knew what he planned to tell Clemens.

"I'm going to tell him I think our fans would really embrace him, tell him that I think he could take us deep in the playoffs and maybe to our first World Series ... come June, July, whenever he's ready to pitch," Hicks said.

While Clemens was visiting with Showalter before the game, Hicks walked in with Texas football coach Mack Brown and Darrell Royal, the only other Longhorns coach to win a national championship.

"I walked in the room and said, 'Roger, I've brought the two best recruiters I know to convince you to be a Texas Ranger.' They walked in and he had a good laugh," Hicks said.

Clemens planned to be in Houston on Tuesday night when the Astros present the NL championship rings from last season.

The Rocket was 13-8 and led the major leagues with a career-best 1.87 ERA last season, when he finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting behind 20-game winners Chris Carpenter and Dontrelle Willis. With 341 victories, Clemens is ninth on the career list with the most wins among living pitchers. His 4,502 strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan's 5,714.