By MICHAEL MORRISSEY
January 12, 2007 -- Another Rocket launch will happen in 2007, Roger Clemens' buddy Andy Pettitte predicted yesterday. And Brian Cashman promised a "full-court press'' to bring Clemens to New York.
In no uncertain terms, the Yankee GM indicated that his team badly covets Clemens if, as expected, the future Hall of Famer wants to keep pitching.
Speaking after the official press conference welcoming Pettitte, Cashman praised the Rocket for his tenure in The Bronx from 1999-2003.
It was a glowing, flowing soliloquy that proved the Bombers have already loaded up their welcome wagon, and they're willing to steer it to Houston.
"If Roger is interested in coming to New York, I'd love to talk to him,'' Cashman began. "He had a huge impact on this organization.
"It was a trade I pushed hard on back in the day. And he came in here (in 1999) and not only delivered a huge performance on the field but also had a major impact within the clubhouse.
"And he cared a great deal not just about the young guys on the come, but he cared about his teammates and he cared about the people within his work environment, the staff members and things of that nature.
"So he's kind of like your perfect employee. You hire a player, he comes with all these other attributes ... He's one of the game's greatest that have ever played, and he had such a positive impact.''
On Wednesday, Clemens' agent Randy Hendricks told the Houston Chronicle that it was a better than 50/50 chance that the 44-year-old righty would pitch again for the Astros, Red Sox or Yankees. Pettitte, who signed a one-year, $16 million deal with a player option for 2008 in December, hopes it's New York.
"It's amazing to me that he still wants to pitch, but he does,'' Pettitte said. "It's like he's 20, and he's got an unbelievable amount of energy.
You add Roger Clemens to your staff ... as far as I'm concerned, he's the greatest pitcher to ever play the game. Would that be great? Does he know I would love that? Of course.
"And when you add him, your expectations are even higher. So from that standpoint, that would be wonderful.''
Pettitte, though, wouldn't feel comfortable recruiting the Rocket to the Big Apple, where he won his only two World Series rings in 1999 and 2000 (Pettitte was also on the 1996 and 1998 clubs).
"I would never try to do that to him,'' he said. "That's his decision, decisions he needs to make in his life.''
The two played golf during the past week, and the seven-time Cy Young Award winner apparently won't be pitching the entire season, according to Pettitte.
"I don't know exactly what he wants to do, but I would think spring training would definitely - probably - be out,'' Pettitte said. "I don't think he's thinking he's going to be heading to camp anywhere in the next three weeks.''
Cashman wouldn't speculate on what Clemens' schedule would be if he was a Yankee. Last year, the Astros let him come and go as he pleased on days he didn't pitch. It seems likely the Yankees would not allow that.
"It's wasted energy for me to discuss what potentially we would or wouldn't do,'' he said.
Cashman helped arrange a phone call between Pettitte and owner George Steinbrenner yesterday, according to spokesman Howard Rubenstein.
"I'm happy you're back,'' The Boss told the pitcher. "Do the job for us. I'm counting on you.''
"I'll be prepared to do it,'' Pettitte replied.
The Boss came away elated, Rubenstein said. Imagine how he'll feel if Cashman's full-court press on Clemens works.