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Archive for Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Clemens’ son hits rocket off Roger

Astros’ prospect blasts pitch over fence; veteran pitcher dodges questions about possible retirement

February 28, 2006

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Roger Clemens' son took the Rocket deep on his first real pitch of spring training, crushing a trademark fastball over the left-field fence.

"That was probably one of the harder fastballs I cut loose," Clemens said after throwing to son Koby and other Houston Astros minor leaguers Monday at Kissimmee, Fla. "He got my attention."

Then the Rocket got Koby's. The next time his oldest son came to the plate, Roger buzzed him high and tight with another fastball. The younger Clemens dodged the pitch, then smiled at his father.

"He was like, 'Sorry about that pitch inside. I was trying to change the view of the ball for you a little bit,'" said Koby, a third baseman drafted by Houston last summer. "I said, 'I knew what you were doing.'"

Clemens, 43, got applause from about 100 fans as he walked to the mound behind the Astros' minor-league complex. He threw 18 pitches from behind a screen before his 19-year-old son took him deep on his first pitch after the screen was moved away.

Clemens threw a total of 66 pitches to Astros minor leaguers in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, then said he was no closer to deciding his future beyond the event. Asked if he was retiring, Clemens shied away.

"I'm not even going to mention that word," he said. "I've been trying to do that for a couple of years now, and it's not working."

Troy Percival might be headed for retirement after leaving Detroit Tigers camp in Lakeland, Fla. His locker was cleaned out Monday and the nameplate removed, and he could not be reached for comment.

The four-time All-Star, 10th on the league's career saves list with 324, struggled Sunday in his inning of relief in a simulated game at Joker Marchant Stadium, which included a long home run to nonroster invitee Mike Rabelo.

"Obviously, in his mind, he doesn't think that he's ready to compete at this level," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Monday.

Percival, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Tigers before last season, partially tore a muscle near his pitching elbow last July and finished 1-3 with a 5.76 earned-run average and eight saves in 26 appearances.

"Never was I counting on him or not counting on him," Leyland said.

The Tigers signed free-agent closer Todd Jones to a two-year, $11-million deal in the offseason. Jones saved 40 games last season.

Ricardo Rincon finally arrived at St. Louis Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla., nearly two weeks late because of visa problems in his native Mexico. The 35-year-old left-handed reliever signed a two-year, $2.9 million free-agent contract in December. Third baseman Scott Rolen, coming back from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss most of last season, continued to show good progress and could play by this weekend, according to skipper Tony La Russa.

At Bradenton, Fla., the Pittsburgh Pirates appear to be resigned to miss pitcher Kip Wells for extended time due to a blood clot near his right arm.

If Wells has surgery, he likely would miss several months and possibly the entire season. A decision was expected within the next five days, Pittsburgh general manager Dave Littlefield said.

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