Notes: Clemens not a lock for Game 5
Garner says Rocket is still day-to-day with sore left hamstring
HOUSTON -- Contrary to published reports, Houston Astros manager Phil Garner did not make a concrete announcement that Roger Clemens was the definitive starter for Game 5 of the World Series, if it is necessary.
Garner said on Monday that Clemens was "penciled in" to start Game 5. That's minus the red pen.
"I think I said I still have him penciled in for Game 5," Garner said. "And that I'm still looking at it day-to-day."
Clemens, who left his Game 1 start after two innings with a strain of his troubled left hamstring, has received daily treatments in an effort to rehabilitate the hamstring, which first gave him problems early in September.
Garner isn't saying whether Clemens will definitely pitch on Thursday because the skipper simply doesn't know. Nor does Clemens.
"I thought I said he's sore," Garner said. "That I wouldn't be encouraged or discouraged at that necessarily, because he could feel better and not get any better. He could not feel much better, but then get better."
Should Clemens not start Thursday, Wandy Rodriguez or Ezequiel Astacio would move into the rotation, even though they both made relief appearances in the 14th inning of Tuesday night's epic Game 3.
General manager Tim Purpura estimated Clemens' chances to start Thursday were 50-50, but he sounded optimistic that The Rocket will be ready.
"Knowing Roger the way we do, nothing surprises me," Purpura said. "I'm not counting him out until he says he can't go. I expect him to walk out to the bullpen and warm up for Game 5.
"Yesterday, I think he was sore. He's making progress. He has been taking anti-inflammatory medication that seems to be helping."
Case closed, roof open: By the time batting practice began on Tuesday, most of the Astros were ready to move on from the topic of the roof being ordered opened by Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, the media wouldn't let the controversy die.
Clearly, the players, and Garner, were not happy that they were not permitted to play under the controlled conditions of a closed roof. They were also not too thrilled that the subject of the roof was taking away from the excitement of the first World Series game played in Texas.
"This is what happens when baseball is covered 24/7," Morgan Ensberg said. "When you do get any sort of issue that's the hot topic, you want to get people to sound off on it. You would rather not deal with it and just play the games."
"It's not a distraction," Lance Berkman vowed. "When the game starts ... we don't care. It's not going to make us play any better or worse. But I guess maybe there would be a psychological edge if we had it closed."
Ensberg suggested the MLB's decision to close the roof was driven by the almighty dollar.
"Is there a blimp?" he asked. "It's strange to me that Major League Baseball would want to step in. If I see a blimp tonight, I'll know why it's open."
Backe rested: Brandon Backe will have eight days of rest when he makes his Game 4 start versus the White Sox on Wednesday. The down time is probably good for his arm, but not so good for his stomach, which has undoubtedly been jumping in anticipation of this start.
Backe is quite excitable, as fans across the country were exposed to during the playoffs, when the right-hander was miked by FOX as part of a "Sounds of the Game" feature.
Backe offers no apologies for his passion for the game of baseball and his role as an Astros starter.
"I really love baseball," he said. "I'm just showing my emotions out there. Maybe it's sometimes a little unprofessional, I don't know. I just act the way I act.
"My team has done so well -- my fans, my Astros that I grew up watching have done so well this year and last year -- and I'm just so happy to be on the team. It's hard to hold back the excitement."
Love for Lidge: Forgive the Astros if they roll their eyes at the 9,754th question regarding Brad Lidge's emotional state.
The Astros are not worried about their closer, who gave up the game-winning home run to Scott Podsednik in Game 2 in Chicago. They also have tremendous confidence in Lidge, should he be called upon to close any of the remaining World Series games.
"We're not going around giving him hugs," Morgan Ensberg said with a chuckle. "We're not going to go up to him and rubbing his back. We're not that type of team.
"He's the best closer in the game and he's going to show you why."
0-2 experience: The Astros are accustomed to returning to Minute Maid Park down 0-2 in a big playoff series. Last year, they lost the first two games of the National League Championship Series to the St. Louis Cardinals and returned home to win the next three.
Every player who was asked if that experience helped them cope with their 0-2 start versus the White Sox said yes.
"When you've been in a situation where you've been there before, you know it can be done," Jeff Bagwell said. "This is a great team we're playing, but we were 0-2 last year to a great team and found a way to win three straight. That's our motivation and that's what we have to look at and take it from there."
"We know we're capable of dropping two on the road and then coming back here and taking three," Lidge said. "We did it last year against a great Cardinals team. The two games we played in Chicago were real close. They didn't go our way, we had some bad breaks here and there. We didn't execute in certain situations. If we had, we could have won those games. Knowing that, and knowing we're home for three, is going to help us a lot."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.