There’s $15.6 million plus riding on Houston’s assertion that Jeff Bagwell is in no condition to play ball. For the longtime first baseman, this is an unseemly end to his Astros tenure, and perhaps a hint to anyone thinking of signing a contract with Drayton McLane that has most of the dough at the back end.

From the Houston Chronicle’s Jose De Jesus Ortiz.

“It probably will never be fixed between me and the Astros,” Bagwell said Tuesday in his first public comments since general manager Tim Purpura declared Monday that “from a technical point of view right now, (Bagwell) is a disabled player. He can’t play professional baseball ” certainly not in the National League at this point.”

Bagwell doesn’t believe the Astros want him to show up at spring training, much less start at first base.

“To me more than anything else, it’s just amazing how bad they don’t want me to play,” said the Astros’ all-time leader in home runs and RBIs. “Anything else said ” it’s just not the truth. They just want to collect their money. It’s an awkward situation.”

Bagwell agrees with Purpura’s assessment that it is a mere formality the Astros will beat the Jan. 31 deadline to file an insurance claim to recoup $15.6 million of the $17 million he will earn for the 2006 season.

Even if the Astros file the claim by Tuesday’s deadline, Purpura acknowledges that there’s no guarantee the insurance company will agree with the Astros’ findings.

Although the Astros might not be able to recoup on the insurance if Bagwell practices this spring, Bagwell plans to practice at Osceola County Stadium next month with his teammates.

“I sure do,” he said. “Formalities or whatever, the thing to me is I am under contract for 2006. … I know I have a bad shoulder. I know I’m coming off surgery. I just want to have an opportunity to see if I can play.”

“I tell you what: I didn’t script this,” he said. “I did not script the end of my career to end it when you’re pushed out the door. It all comes down to the same fact ” it’s a business. And when you think it’s not a business, you’re reminded it’s a business. …

“I’m not looking for a handout. I’m not looking for sympathy. It’s just a business.”