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MLB roundup: Clemens would only return to pitch against contender

The SportsXchange

The only roadblock between Roger Clemens' return to the big leagues this season is Astros owner Jim Crane.

Clemens and Crane have discussed having the 50-year-old make a start for Houston this season, but they aren't on the same page on the ideal terms under which he'd get back on the mound.

Crane did not rule out the possibility of Clemens pitching for the Astros this season, but said the Astros would not use Clemens in a game a team in playoff contention as Clemens insists would be necessary to prod him out of retirement.

Asked whether Clemens might pitch at home in two weeks against the Pirates or Cardinals, both of whom are in the wild-card chase, Crane told the Chronicle, "I don't think we would consider that. I think if we did that, it would not be against a contender."

Clemens suggested that the only way he would consider pitching for the Astros this season is if it were against a contending team.

"I can tell you right now and they would know too, that if I was going to go do it, I am going to pitch against a contender, that's who I want to knock out," Clemens told Houston's KRIV-TV. "Why would I want to waste my time running around and getting in shape? I get over to Minute Maid (Park), I'll crank it up and get it over 90 for a contender. We'll knock them right out of the playoffs. That would be the fun. Pitching against somebody that's not in contention wouldn't be any fun for me."

------After several recent subpar outings, Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman may be given a couple of days off to rest a fatigued shoulder.

Chapman's decreased velocity Monday night in an outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates set off alarms in the Reds dugout. Known for his 100 mph-plus fastball, Chapman topped out at 97 mph and averaged a season-low 94.4 mph. Of his 23 pitches in the 10th inning, only seven were for strikes.

Chapman walked three of the five batters he faced Monday. On Friday against Houston, he gave up four hits, including a three-run homer, in a blown save.

--- Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman was scheduled to undergo season-ending knee surgery on Tuesday, and it could lead to his retirement, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday.

Berkman had a second MRI in less than two weeks on Monday, at which time it was determined surgery was needed.

He needs additional meniscus shaved from a knee that has already undergone three surgeries, including one in May.

In recent weeks, Berkman, 36, has mentioned the possibility of retirement several times. At this point, he is not making any announcement about his future plans, however.

"I'm leaving my options open," he said.

He hit .263 with two homers in 31 games this season after hitting .301 with 31 homers a year ago in 145 games.

---Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was angered by an alleged racial remark from an unnamed opponent during Monday night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Phillips didn't clarify who made the alleged comment or reveal the contents during the eight inning of the 14-inning game in Cincinnati.

After the game, Phillips tweeted, "#RealTalk ... Not really surprised by what I heard come outta another player's mouth tonite but DAMN... Still PISSED bout that $h!+!! #Racism."

Phillips was hit by a pitch from Pirates reliever Jared Hughes in the eighth. Phillips picked up the ball and threw it toward the mound, which upset Hughes. The two then exchanged words.

---The Baltimore Orioles designated right-hander Kevin Gregg for assignment on Tuesday and announced that outfielder Nick Markakis underwent successful surgery on his left thumb.

Gregg is 3-2 with a 4.74 ERA this season and has been a major disappointment since signing a two-year, $10 million contract. Last season, he was 0-3 with a 4.37 ERA and converted only 22 of 29 save opportunities.

Replacing Gregg on the team's 40-man roster is outfielder L.J. Hoes.
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