Astros not surprised about Clemens
Former teammates not upset, focused on this year's team
ST. LOUIS -- The visitors' clubhouse at Busch Stadium was again the setting when the Houston Astros learned of Roger Clemens' plans.
Last year, on May 31, they were in the very same clubhouse, preparing to play the Cardinals. This time, they had just lost to the Cardinals, and were packing up to move on to the next city.
Same setting, same reaction. No one was surprised when Clemens re-signed with the Astros last year, and no one was at all shocked that he's headed to the Yankees this time.
"There are two kinds of people," Lance Berkman said. "Those people who aren't surprised, and morons."
As soon as Andy Pettitte signed with the Yankees last December, Berkman said, Clemens was as good as gone.
"I've been calling it loud and clear," Berkman said.
Asked if he thought the Yankees' desperation for more pitching played into it, Berkman said, "Even if they had a set rotation, that's where he was going -- there's no doubt about that."
The rest of the players approached on the topic were a bit less forceful with their responses, but nonetheless, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of uniformed personnel were: a) not at all surprised Clemens signed with the Yankees, and b) not all that upset that he's gone.
The overall mood could best be described as noncommital -- call it one big, collective shrug of the shoulders.
"I don't have an opinion on it," Roy Oswalt said. "You play with guys different years, and the game is so focused on the guys you have coming out of Spring Training. That's the team we have and that's the team we're going to stick with. Adding only one guy to a team isn't going to make that great of an amount of difference. Right now, we have to play together as a team."
Catcher Brad Ausmus, the position player who was closest to Pettitte and Clemens during their three-year tenure with the Astros, admitted that he was disappointed.
"I would have much rather have both of those pitchers here than in New York," Ausmus said. "It's part of the business of baseball. They're both very good friends of mine. I wish them both the best of luck, and I would hope to see them down the line."
Count Morgan Ensberg as one who was not shocked, and not terribly concerned.
"When you're going through a season, you're concentrating on the team that you have," he said. "You're not thinking about all the players who you wish you had. Rocket is in a unique situation in that he was deciding whether or not he was going to play.
"I don't think anybody in this locker room is surprised with his decision. To be honest with you, I had not even thought about that situation until somebody brought it up today. It was completely out of sight, out of mind.
"You could see him going to the Yankees pretty clearly, though."
Perhaps the Astros are comforted by the fact that even though the team is struggling, the starting rotation has been solid for most of the season. Most of the fixing, 30 games into the season, needs to be on the offense's side.
"The starting guys have been putting up quality starts," Oswalt said. "That's the main thing for a starter, is if you can stay in there six, seven innings and get a quality start, keep your team in the situation to win the game. The guys have done a real good job coming in behind us at holding runs down. Hopefully, it keeps going like that."
The club clearly is prepared to move on without Clemens, who will likely begin his second tour with the Yankees in early June.
"We never counted on him being here," Berkman said. "He might have stayed retired for all we knew. We couldn't count on him coming to the rescue."
Added Oswalt: "We've got 25 guys here and we have to play with what we've got. It doesn't matter what goes on outside the team. We're trying to win here."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.