HOUSTON - Five years after he pitched his last big-league game, could Roger Clemens come out of retirement to face the Cubs?
It doesn't sound likely, but Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said Monday there's still a chance Clemens could pitch a game for the Astros before the season's over and didn't rule out the possibility it could be against the Cubs.
Crane said he wouldn't let it happen against a team that's still in the playoff chase, so that likely leaves only the two remaining series against the Cubs and one final-week series at Milwaukee.
``You never know at 50 years old, but he's one of the best competitors of all time,'' Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, ``so if he feels like he can get people out at this level, if anybody could do it, it'd be him.''
Clemens has pitched twice for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, with eight scoreless innings total, including 4 2/3 innings Friday. That would make his natural fifth day Wednesday - when the Cubs and Astros wrap up this week's series.
Clemens told reporters after Friday's game he didn't envision a big-league start because of how long it took him to recover between starts.
But Crane said he's not ruling out anything and said he would consider it a special event for the fans, with the increased ticket sales going into the Astros' community fund.
He didn't even rule out the possibility of a road start. ``I think we're open-minded about it,'' Crane said. ``That probably wouldn't benefit us much. ... Maybe we do it the last week against [the Cubs], give [them] some help.''
Sveum likes the idea, if only for the thrill his young team might get.
``Where the seasons are with our clubs, it'd be nice for the guys to say they faced Roger Clemens,'' he said. ``If the fans came out ... there'd obviously be a lot of hype that day. It'd bring something to the game, anyway.''