Sox express interest in Rocket return

Sox express interest in Rocket return

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have at least explored the possibility of re-acquiring perhaps the finest pitcher in the history of their franchise.

Earlier this week, the Houston Astros did not offer arbitration to future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens, meaning the earliest he could return to the hometown team he's pitched for the last two years is May 1.

With that in mind, the Red Sox have let it be known to representatives of The Rocket that they would be interested in discussing a reunion for Clemens in Boston, who left the club as a free agent following the 1996 season.

"We had an internal discussion and concluded we should make an initial call to let the Hendricks brothers know we were open to discuss Roger's return if he should have interest in the Red Sox in 2006," Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino told The Boston Globe. "Nothing further."

The Globe reported that the contact has been made with the Hendricks brothers, and Clemens is now aware that his original Major League team, the club he won the first three of his record-setting seven Cy Young awards, has interest in bringing him back.

The possibility of Clemens returning to Boston might be a long shot, as there is speculation that his top desire, if he stays active, would be to return to the Astros, even though it would be after the start of the season.

Clemens has loved living at home with his family the last two years, and his son Koby is now a prospect in the Houston farm system.

However, Boston, the place where he began his legendary career and pitched 13 seasons, remains a city Clemens is fond of, and he still has several friends in the area.

When he left the Red Sox for Toronto nine years ago, all the bad blood he had was directed at Dan Duquette, the team's general manager at the time. Duquette hasn't been with the Red Sox since 2001, and Clemens has generally spoken favorably of the Red Sox the last few years.

With 192 wins, he remains tied with Cy Young as the winningest pitcher in Red Sox history. It would certainly be enticing to see Clemens have a chance to pass Young.

If the Red Sox were successful in convincing Clemens to return, he would join a rotation that also includes Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield. It would be interesting to see Clemens team with all three of those men.

Beckett, a native of Texas, has long idolized Clemens. Schilling has long been on record as saying an inspirational chat with Clemens -- the Rocket basically gave him a kick in the pants -- was a key driving force in the success of his career. And Wakefield and Clemens were teammates during the final two years of Rocket's first tour of duty in Boston, and the two men have great respect for each other.

The fact that the Red Sox are exploring Clemens is just the latest fascinating tale in what has been an offseason of noteworthy developments.

Theo Epstein stepped down as general manager on Oct. 31, and his position has yet to be filled. However, now there have been rumblings in both Boston newspapers that owner John W. Henry is hoping to bring Epstein back in an advisory capacity. The Red Sox haven't commented on those reports, or rumblings that in-house executives Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer will share GM responsibilities for 2006.

Even without a general manager, the Red Sox have made major moves, dealing for Beckett, trading backup catcher Doug Mirabelli for second baseman Mark Loretta, and sending shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Braves for top prospect Andy Marte.

As intriguing as all of the other developments have been, a Clemens return would likely top everything.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.