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Astros will not offer Arbitration to Clemens


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AP Story


DALLAS (AP) The Houston Astros declined to offer salary arbitration to Roger Clemens on Wednesday, a move that means he can't re-sign with the National League champions until May 1.


The seven-time Cy Young Award winner spent the last two seasons with his hometown team and hasn't decided whether to pitch next year or retire. At 43, he led the major leagues in ERA at 1.87, going 13-8 to help the Astros reach the World Series for the first time.


"This is probably one of the more gut-wrenching, difficult decisions we've made as an organization,'' general manager Tim Purpura said. "It's one of these things that you regret to have to do. ... We need to move forward and we don't know just what Roger's status will be for next year.''


Clemens made $18 million, and the Astros didn't want to risk going to salary arbitration while they awaited his decision whether to play. Clemens still intends to pitch for the United States in March during the inaugural World Baseball Classic.


"We expected this because we talked a great deal about this,'' said his agent, Randy Hendricks. "It's no surprise.''


Clemens had an injured leg and back late in the season and was forced out of his start in Game 1 of the World Series against the Chicago White Sox after only two innings.


Houston's decision could lead to other teams trying to lure Clemens, such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, two of his former clubs.


"If anybody calls, we'll listen,'' Hendricks said.


He doesn't expect Clemens to make a call about pitching next season for at least a month.


"Nothing has changed about his plan to decide in late January, early February,'' Hendricks said, adding that Clemens' performance in the WBC could play a part in the decision.


"I expect that will be a form of a litmus test to see how feels about playing mentally and physically,'' he said.


While the Astros won't rule out the possibility of Clemens pitching for them from May 1 on, Purpura said "nobody should pin their hopes'' on that happening.


"I'd love to have an answer today that he would come back,'' manager Phil Garner said. "In the event that that's not going to happen, this is the best possible scenario, to move forward.''


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.

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