- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - Roger Clemens tried to get across a sense of urgency to Houston Astros pitchers Wednesday.

“If it’s working for you, stay with it. If it’s not, you need to change something. That’s something I said,” Clemens said. “Obviously it’s not working for some of you so you need to re-evaluate what you’re doing.”

In his capacity as special assistant to the general manager, Clemens addressed a group of young pitchers who were often overmatched last season.

With a staff significantly different from the one assembled this spring, the Astros posted a 4.79 ERA while losing 111 games.

“If you need to stay and do some extra work, conditioning, whatever it might be, that will make you mentally tougher than the next guy,” Clemens said. “I think with all the conditioning I did throughout my career, that made me feel like I had an edge.”

On the eve of the team’s first full-squad workout, the Astros brought in the 51-year-old, seven-time Cy Young Award winner for a morning pep talk.

“I think these guys have got to realize that it’s not only just about them, that everybody’s rooting hard and they want ‘em to do well,” Clemens said.

“Obviously when they do that, a lot of people are going to start coming through the turnstiles again to watch ‘em.”

Clemens pitched three of his 24 major league seasons in Houston, winning the National League ERA title in 2005 when the Astros won the pennant. The years since have been lean, especially the past three in which the Astros lost 106, 107 and 111 games.

That’s one of the reasons Clemens was brought back last year, according to general manager Jeff Luhnow.

“He really understands our philosophy as an organization,” Luhnow said. “He’s been a part of this organization for a long time and he sees eye-to-eye with everything that we’re doing and is able to communicate the messages.”

One of the messages is to no longer accept defeat.

“There’s more than a handful of guys that have an opportunity and they need to take a big step forward,” Clemens said. “In spring training everybody’s all giddy right now, and then you start the season and everybody gets punched in the face. It’s not a lot of fun.

I think they’re kind of taking the kid gloves off ‘em a little bit and asking a lot of ‘em to step up.”

The catchers, too.

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