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Astros praise Clemens' knowledge, experience

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- He knew seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens would be a frequent visitor to camp this year, but Astros left-hander Kevin Chapman never imagined he'd be getting some advice on his first day in town.

Chapman threw to batters for the first time on Sunday afternoon, and then spent a few minutes with Clemens talking about what went right and what he could do to get sharper. Clemens told Chapman he did a good job staying back and told him not to try to do too much.

"It was nice," Chapman said. "I didn't expect him to come up and say anything. It was nice to get some feedback from a guy like him, especially after your first live BP. And it was positive, so that's definitely nice."

Clemens, who has a personal-services contract with the Astros that kicked in when he retired, was coaxed back onto the field by owner Jim Crane, and last month worked out a schedule with general manager Jeff Luhnow to pay three separate visits to Kissimmee and lend a hand.

"It's obviously great," pitcher Bud Norris said. "It's so encouraging to hear things from such a good source. He's seen me pitch for a couple of years now and knows my mechanics and sees the mistakes I've made. Obviously, when he watches me, he can give me some feedback, and I needed it today. Hearing it from the source and knowing it's coming from a good place is extremely helpful."

One of the pitchers Clemens took time to watch and critique was right-hander John Ely, who was acquired this offseason in a trade with the Dodgers.

"Right after I threw, he came over and mentioned a few things I was doing right, gave me a few suggestions," Ely said. "Obviously, whenever somebody like Roger is talking, you're a sponge. You're all ears. It's fantastic to be able to have him around. It's an unbelievable resource, a guy of his experience and what he's done. Having him around is going to be a huge resource for us, and I couldn't be happier about it."

Clemens' presence can be beneficial to position players, too, veteran slugger Carlos Pena said.

"Just having him around is a treat for all of us, and none of us here take that for granted," he said. "Everyone here appreciates every single second he gives himself to us. I know I'm not a pitcher, but he knows hitters. He knows how to pitch hitters. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball, and there was a reason.

"He knows how to look for weaknesses and stuff like that. There's a lot of stuff like professionalism we can learn. However, most importantly is having him around. It's a treat by itself just because of the way he is."

Clemens gave Pena grief at the batting cage about a bat Pena used during the 2007 season while he was with the Rays and Clemens with the Yankees. The bat, which Pena got from teammate Aki Iwamura, had a flat top unlike most bats, which are cupped.

"He said, 'We were scared of that bat. It sounds so loud,'" Pena joked. "He's always very positive and very encouraging, which I appreciate."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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