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No noise on this Rocket

Sox silent on possible return of Clemens

Did John Henry and Larry Lucchino meet with Roger Clemens in Houston this week to discuss his possible return to the Red Sox, or to advance an offer, or show him the glitzy new video they have prepared?

All or any of the above?

No answers were forthcoming on Yawkey Way last night.

All calls and e-mails to Henry, Lucchino, Theo Epstein, the Red Sox public relations staff, and Wally the Green Monster were not returned. The only answer came from Tom Werner, who wrote, ''No comment."

Clemens's agent, Randy Hendricks, was also quiet.

When asked of a possible meeting between the Sox brass and Clemens, Hendricks said, ''You'll have to ask the Red Sox that question." Hendricks refused to comment further.

It was a well-orchestrated silence.

Earlier this week, Hendricks said Clemens was looking forward to pitching in the World Baseball Classic and using that as a ''test drive" to see if he would resume his Hall of Fame career. The Red Sox have been the most aggressive of the teams in the hunt for Clemens (the Yankees and Rangers are also involved) in terms of embracing his return for the curtain call of his career.

The Red Sox could use a pitcher whose work habits could rub off on the rest of the staff, and who is idolized by most of the staff.

While it might be coincidence, Al Nipper will become the interim pitching coach as Dave Wallace recovers from a serious hip infection that might render him unable to coach during spring training. Nipper is one of Clemens's closest friends. Clemens also has other friends on the Red Sox, including John Flaherty, Tim Wakefield, and Curt Schilling. And Josh Beckett idolizes Clemens.

The Red Sox might be willing to go far financially to obtain the Sox' co-leader in career wins (192 with Cy Young), even if it means a reduced season in which Clemens is able to go home on days he doesn't pitch.

While all of those issues are important to the final deal, there are still the Yankees, Rangers, and possibly the Astros to contend with. The Yankees likely will pull out every stop to land Clemens, who retired from the Yankees only to change his mind and sign with the Astros prior to the 2004 season. The Rangers are in desperate need of pitching, and a Rocket sighting in Arlington would increase attendance and put many millions into owner Tom Hicks's pocket.

But there's no doubt the best story line is a return to the Red Sox.

Asked about the team's interest in Clemens, Sox manager Terry Francona said, ''I know they're trying very hard. Our interest is sincere. I know we've tried to give Roger his space and honor his privacy, but I know we're trying."

Hendricks has been trying to monitor the reaction of Red Sox fans to a possible return for Clemens. A poll has run about 70 percent to 30 percent in favor of Rocket's return.

Gordon Edes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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