Houston lifts Rocket off retirement chair

Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2004

NEW YORK The Rocket splashed down in Spacetown on Monday, and Vladimir Guerrero finalized his big deal with the Anaheim Angels.

Roger Clemens ended his 2 1/2-month retirement, agreeing to join close friend Andy Pettitte on the pitching staff of their hometown Houston Astros.

''I took to heart what Wayne Gretzky told me and Michael (Jordan) and Emmitt Smith and even Johnny Bench,'' Clemens said. ''It's great to come home.''

The six-time Cy Young Award winner, now 41, got a $5 million, one-year contract, which included $3.5 million deferred to 2006. He can make another $1.4 million in attendance bonuses.

For more than a year, Clemens insisted 2003 would be his final season. But that changed after the Yankees lost the World Series and Pettitte left New York to sign with the Astros last month.

''We wouldn't even be talking here now if Andy wasn't here,'' Clemens said. ''Andy signing down here just changed everything.''

Clemens is coming off a season in which he went 17-9 with a 3.91 ERA. He reached career milestones of 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts in the same game in June. In what appeared to be his final outing, even the Florida Marlins applauded after his last pitch in Game 4 of the World Series.

''It's a great thing for Houston and, frankly, Roger has earned the right to do whatever he wants to,'' baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.

Guerrero, perhaps the top hitter on the free-agent market, got a $70 million, five-year contract from the Angels. The $14 million average annual value was the highest among free agents this offseason.

Guerrero spoke in Spanish at a news conference in Anaheim, then uttered a few words in English before owner Arte Moreno stepped in to interpret.

''He said, 'I am very happy to be here,''' Moreno said. ''And I am very happy to be here, too.''

Guerrero, a four-time All-Star, gets a $5 million signing bonus, $10 million this year, $11.5 million in 2005, $12.5 million in 2006, $13.5 million in 2007 and $14.5 million in 2008, according to contract information obtained by The Associated Press. The Angels have a $15 million option for 2009 with a $3 million buyout.

The deal is the latest in an offseason spending spree by Moreno, who purchased the Angels last year from The Walt Disney Co.

''This is an historic day for the Angels,'' general manager Bill Stoneman said. ''I'm full of anticipation for the '04 season.''

Texas acquired a pair of former Yankees pitchers, agreeing to a $6 million, two-year contract with left-hander Kenny Rogers and a $1.5 million, one-year deal with right-handed reliever Jeff Nelson.

The deal for Rogers won't be finalized until the 39-year old pitcher passes a physical. It will be his third stint with the team he also pitched for the Rangers for 1989-95 and 2000-02, then went 13-8 with a 4.57 ERA in 33 games for Minnesota last season.

Rogers' agent, Scott Boras, said he wasn't yet close to deals for two of the remaining high-profile free agents: catcher Ivan Rodriguez and right-hander Greg Maddux.

The Yankees acquired a backup to first baseman Jason Giambi, agreeing to a $750,000, one-year contract with Tony Clark. He hit .232 with 16 homers and 43 RBIs in 254 at-bats with the New York Mets last season.

John Vander Wal, one of baseball's most productive pinch hitters, agreed to a $700,000, one-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Outfielder Doug Glanville, who played for Philadelphia from 1998 to 2002, agreed to a $550,000, one-year contract with the team.

Tampa bay agreed to minor league contracts with third baseman Fernando Tatis, right-hander Todd Jones and left-hander Mike Holtz. Tatis would get $750,000, one-year contract if he's added to the 40-man roster while Jones would get a $450,000, one-year contract and Holtz would get a split deal calling for $405,000 in the majors and $125,000 in the minors.

Colorado agreed to a minor league contract with left-hander Jeff Fassero, and Cleveland agreed to a minor league deal with infielder Lou Merloni. Fassero would get a $500,000, one-year contract if he's added to the 40-man league roster.

Two players eligible for salary arbitration agreed to one-year contracts: Chicago White Sox left-hander Scott Schoeneweis ($1,725,000) and Cleveland right-hander David Riske ($1,025,000).

On the trade front, San Diego and Pittsburgh were working to finalize a deal in which the Pirates would get third baseman Jeff Cirillo and catcher Ramon Hernandez for Kendall, a team source told the AP on the condition of anonymity. The renewed Padres-Pirates trade talks were first reported Saturday by the Beaver County (Pa.) Times.



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