Clemens to return

Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Clemens put off retirement to pitch for the Houston Astros again, and the Texas Rangers tried to bring Carlos Delgado to the Lone Star State.

Clemens agreed Friday to an $18 million, one-year contract with the Astros that gives him the highest salary for a pitcher in baseball history.

''I take a deep breath, and here we go again,'' Clemens said. ''I'm ready for the challenge.''

A seven-time Cy Young Award winner and 10-time All-Star, the 42-year-old right-hander helped the Astros come within one win of their first World Series. He got the largest one-year contract in major league history, topping Greg Maddux's $14.75 million deal with Atlanta in 2003, and became the highest-paid pitcher for the fifth time. Pedro Martinez earned $17.5 million with Boston last season.

While Clemens was discussing his deal at Minute Maid Park in Houston, the Rangers were talking about their big meeting with Delgado in Puerto Rico. Rangers owner Tom Hicks made an offer that got the attention of the free-agent first baseman.

''Tom Hicks said that he was going to come to Puerto Rico and give it his best shot,'' Delgado's agent, David Sloane, said in an e-mail. ''He did all that and more.''

Texas, competing with the New York Mets, Florida and Baltimore, made progress during the four-hour session in Puerto Rico.

''I think they recognize it was a very strong offer, I think they recognize we went certainly farther ... it was more aggressive than anything we talked about before,'' Hicks said. ''I think we made a very compelling offer.''

Hicks wouldn't go into details about the offer. He expects Delgado will decide on the Rangers' proposal by the end of the weekend.

A former Rangers star, Alex Rodriguez, also made news Friday, taking a shot at Boston's Curt Schilling as the never-ending Yankees-Red Sox rivalry heated up in the dead of winter.

''I just hope he continues to talk about me and my teammates,'' the New York Yankees third baseman said. ''It's going to give us great motivation to beat him up in the future.''

Schilling called it a ''bush-league play'' after Rodriguez was called out for interference in Game 6 of the AL championship series last October. A-Rod, trying to beat out an infield dribbler, slapped the ball away from pitcher Bronson Arroyo near first base.

''To me it was just odd, because I mean we beat him a couple of times during the year and he was crying on the bench,'' Rodriguez said, referring to Schilling. ''And then he lost Game 1 and he wouldn't talk or anything. And obviously, he wins Game 6 and then he's still talking until today. So it's just something we as players have been accustomed to. But it's something I'm not worried about.''

Schilling, reached on a cell phone Friday, said Rodriguez had his facts wrong.

''It's not true. I talked after Game 1,'' Schilling said. ''I don't care what Alex says. When someone says that, you consider the source.''

He also denied shedding tears in the dugout.

''I was upset, but I wasn't crying on the bench,'' Schilling said.

Also, Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry hopes the team and Sammy Sosa can patch up their differences once spring training begins next month. Sosa left the clubhouse early without permission before last season's final game, disappointing teammates and drawing a fine from the team.

''He did a wrongful thing the last day of the season. He missed a game without an excuse and he made some comments publicly about Dusty,'' Hendry said Friday, referring to manager Dusty Baker.

''Really there is no reason once camp starts and Sammy comes out with a good effort and we get off to a good start, there is no reason the story should continue,'' Hendry said. ''Professional athletes are like the rest of us, we all make mistakes and we live in a forgiving society. If handled the right way, with the right amount of contrition, you can put it behind you.''

Also, outfielder Casey Blake agreed to a $5.4 million, two-year contract with Cleveland, leaving 34 players in salary arbitration. Among free agents, reliever Steve Reed agreed to a $1.05 million, one-year contract with Baltimore, and knuckleballer Steve Sparks agreed to a minor league contract with San Diego that would pay him $550,000 if he makes the big league roster.


AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman in Boston contributed to this report

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