Righthanders Wade Miller, 27, and Roy Oswalt, 26, were considered co-aces before the Astros signed the two pitchers who rank fourth and fifth in winning percentage among active pitchers with 100 or more decisions. Ever tight, Clemens (310-160, .660) and Pettitte (149-78, .656) also rank 19th and 21st on the alltime list. Oswalt (43-17, .717) and Miller (51-32, .614) are off to fine starts toward joining their company. Righthander Tim Redding, 26, is the fifth starter in what is an enormously talented rotation.
"Might as well put Clemens's and Pettitte's jerseys in Redding's locker right now," Bagwell calls out to an equipment manager. "Save him the trouble of embarrassing himself trying to work up the nerve to ask them for their autographs."
The Astros won 87 games last year, one fewer than the National League Central-champion Chicago Cubs. Houston has never won a playoff series in seven tries. But as the Astros gather this week to open spring training in Kissimmee, Fla., the talk back home is not just about getting out of the first round, it's also about winning the whole darn shootin' match. Clemens and Pettitte changed how big a city could dream.
"I'm excited to meet the guys, to see how the young guys work," Clemens says.
"Maybe some will go after it [with their training] like Andy. I'm glad I'm here for him. I know what it's like, going through that transition after you leave someplace."
The next seven months on Clemens's calendar are scheduled with barely room to breathe. He is cast in the roles of the older brother, the veteran leader, the embodiment of a World Series wish, the living legend, Mr. Astro (he has a 10-year personal services contract with McLane) and still the husband and father who promises to be there for the boys' big games. "It's going to be a balancing act," Clemens says.
He knows—he cherishes—that what made this perfect storm of a comeback possible in the first place is the brotherhood he shares with Pettitte. That is why, with more gravel to crunch beneath his feet, he runs on. Never alone.
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