The 44-year-old right-hander removed himself from consideration for the team's upcoming set at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field, telling general manager Brian Cashman that he has a "fatigued right groin" and will be unavailable to make what would have been his first start of the 2007 season.
Instead of joining the Yankees in Chicago on Monday, as originally expected, Clemens will depart Houston on a flight back to Tampa, Fla., where he will be examined by Yankees medical personnel and the club's Minor League training staff.
"I'll tell you what: I'm happy that he told us," Cashman said. "I think a lot of other people in his position would be in a position to come up. That's not him. He's a team guy. He feels he's almost ready, but he's not taking anything for granted. He knows we're counting on him seriously and a lot of people probably would have taken a different approach."
The Yankees entered the weekend with a hunch that such an exit might have been possible for Clemens, who apparently had been bothered by an issue in his right groin that he originally felt on Monday in a Minor League start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Still, the Yankees held out hope, with manager Joe Torre e-mailing Clemens over the weekend and later saying, "My understanding was he wasn't going to discount Monday altogether."
After signing a prorated one-year, $28 million contract to rejoin the Yankees on May 6, Clemens made three Minor League starts to prepare for a return to big-league duty.
Coming off a subpar effort for Double-A Trenton of the Eastern League, the Yankees considered promoting Clemens to the big leagues to pitch earlier in the week at Toronto, but they instead opted to offer Clemens one more Minor League start at Triple-A.
Though Clemens completed a sharp six-inning effort against the Toledo Mud Hens, a Detroit Tigers affiliate, the fatigued groin nagged all week. Clemens threw off flat ground Friday and told Cashman he'd thrown again on Saturday in Houston, but with his first Major League assignment a little more than 48 hours away, Clemens apparently did not feel confident he would be able to shake the issue in time to face the White Sox.
"He could have showed up on Monday and didn't have to tell anybody anything," Cashman said. "He's about what's best for this team and he's about what's right. I appreciate the fact that he understands the importance of the entire situation. Monday was a no-go."
The decision to remain on the sidelines will hurt Clemens financially, as he would have started to earn a significant sum of the prorated deal -- reportedly $153,006 for each day he is on the Yankees' 25-man roster.
"That says a lot about who he is, and it certainly sends a message to a lot of people out there," Cashman said. "He went with what was right. We'll adjust and go forward."
With Clemens scratched, Cashman said the Yankees conducted in-house discussions throughout the team's 11-6 loss to the Red Sox in order to hammer out a possible fill-in starter for Monday.
Though Cashman would not confirm it, many signs indicated left-hander Kei Igawa, who was 2-1 with a 7.63 ERA in seven games (six starts) for the Yankees this season, could be recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to join the team in Chicago, skipping his scheduled start Sunday.
"He's certainly one of the names we're discussing right now," Cashman said. "He's an option. He's a starter scheduled for [Sunday], and there's a situation where we may not have him start [Sunday], but that won't definitely mean he'll pitch for us Monday."
Igawa was sent to Class A Tampa after a May 4 start against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium in which he was battered for eight runs in four innings, including three home runs.
Working in Tampa with organizational pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras and coach Gil Patterson, the 27-year-old Igawa worked to tweak his delivery and made two successful starts before being promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees' plan was to keep Igawa at Triple-A for more than just the one start he made -- a loss to Toledo on Tuesday -- but Clemens' honesty regarding his injury may have accelerated Igawa's path back to the Majors.
"Obviously, we're adjusting on the run now," Cashman said. "We'll obviously come up with a starter, but I can't tell you who that is yet."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.