Rocket visits Yanks; no decision yet
Pettitte, Jeter think Clemens will pitch again, when he's ready
TAMPA, Fla. -- As Andy Pettitte warmed up on the mound before Wednesday night's game against the Reds, Roger Clemens settled into a seat next to the Yankees dugout, just behind Joe Torre.
The crowd murmured as Clemens reached out and shook Torre's hand.
Then, three innings later, after Pettitte finished his three-inning stint, Clemens made his way up to the third floor of Legends Field and turned out of the elevator toward owner George Steinbrenner's suite.
And, finally, The Rocket stepped into the YES Network's booth to talk with broadcasters Al Leiter and Ken Singleton.
Was it time? Did this mean the 44-year-old righty was ready to announce his return to the Bronx?
"No, I'm just here as a fan and a friend," Clemens said. "My position hasn't changed. At this point, I'm not thinking about coming back. But there are times when I feel like doing so."
Pettitte spent last year with his good friend on the Astros and understands the grind of the season.
"My guess is that he'd pitch, but it's always tough," said Pettitte, who has been playing golf with Clemens on his off-days. "But I know he's still working out and he keeps himself in good shape. And I think he once he gets that itch, he might choose to play again."
Clemens had spent the day in Orlando pitching in the Astros' Minor League camp, where his son, Koby, is participating. He faced six batters during the session, which amounted to about 60 pitches.
"My arm feels good and my body feels good," said Clemens, who pitched to his son during the rotation. "I was further along last year because of the World [Baseball Classic], but when I've gone out there and pitched to the Minor Leaguers, it feels good and then things seem appealing. But then, when I'm back home and I sit for a few days, I then say, 'There's no way I can do this.'"
Clemens said he would not make a decision until May about if, when and where he'd return to play.
The clear choices are the Yankees, Red Sox or the Astros, but the ultimate decision depends on whether he's physically and mentally prepared to do so.
"I have to get back up to speed," said Clemens. "I'm not at the point to be competitive and to get the job done. I've had enough word from teammates where it does sound appealing, though."
On Tuesday night, Derek Jeter joined him for dinner in Tampa, but the subject of whether Clemens will return did not come up. Yet, that did not preclude the All-Star shortstop from guessing Clemens' decision.
"We never talked about baseball," said Jeter. "I'm sure he's done enough of that with you all, so he doesn't want to have to hear it from me. But I think that he'll pitch again. If I had to guess, I'd say he will."
Torre hadn't talked to Clemens in more than a year and hadn't seen him in over two years, but the Yankees skipper still believes Clemens has the right stuff to come back and perform well.
"It's only because he keeps himself in such good shape and he has a good time pitching," said Torre, who spoke briefly with Clemens before and during the game.
"I don't think he knows where he wants to pitch, and I wouldn't go about trying to recruit him for here. I think that would only make it more difficult for him."
Nevertheless, the drive into Tampa before Wednesday's game brought back memories for Clemens and his son.
"It was fun coming in today," said Clemens. "Koby reminisced about all the years spent here in February and March."
Which might mean the longing to wear Yankees pinstripes again could be in the picture soon.
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.