In a report that is using as source for their front page item today, the Houston Chronicle’s Richard Justice reports that Astros 1B Jeff Bagwell wants to play in 2006, much to the club’s dismay.

According to Bagwell and his agent, Barry Axelrod, the Astros want him to announce he can no longer play, that his right shoulder is forcing him to give up this comeback attempt.

Then and only then can the Astros collect on an insurance policy that will pay about $15.6 million of the approximately $17 million Bagwell is owed for the 2006 season.

The Astros apparently have been pushing him in this direction since the end of last season. With the Jan. 31 deadline for filing the insurance claim approaching, they’ve begun to push harder.

Astros general manager Tim Purpura said the issue is more complicated.

“We’re trying to get some objective information,” he said. “A healthy Jeff Bagwell is what we want. If he can’t be a full-time player, we have to figure out if we can collect on the insurance or not.”

If Bagwell steps onto the field at spring training, the Astros may not be able to collect on the policy.

Bagwell will see renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. That trip had been uncertain after Andrews suffered a heart attack over the weekend. It was finalized Tuesday afternoon. Bagwell is going because the Astros insist.

Purpura said it’s to get an evaluation of the bum shoulder. Bagwell, 37, believes it could be to build a case that he no longer can be an everyday player.

Either way, he sees the whole thing as a waste of time.

“I don’t know Dr. Andrews,” Bagwell said, “but I’m pretty sure he’s going to say, ‘You have a bad shoulder, sir.’ I already know that. That doesn’t mean I can’t play. No matter what he says, I’m still going to go to spring training to play baseball.”

To Astros owner Drayton McLane, the issue is simple. He apparently doesn’t believe Bagwell will be a $17 million player in 2006. He’s not sentimental with so much money on the line.

McLane was out of the country and unavailable for comment Tuesday.

“I don’t blame them,” Axelrod said. “But the fact is, Jeff has a contract. Whether the Astros are happy about it is not the point.”

Bagwell, typically stoic, always has understood there was a business side to the game. He understands the business side has been good to him.

He’s somewhere between hurt and angry at how it has played out.

“I didn’t go back to them in ’97 or ’98 or ’99 and say, ‘I want to change my contract. I’m not getting paid enough,’ ” he said.

Will Leitch, unscathed by recent scandal, opined yesterday that Andrews’ heart attack “is more worthy than a notebook tidbit in an offseason Houston Chronicle story”, before proudly proclaming that his sources had indeed, confirmed that Andrews had been hospitalized. Presumably, this source was not the oft maligned, which mentioned Andrews’ health woes a day earlier. And Andrews isn’t merely “Baseball’s Top Shoulder Doc”, as anyone who follows the thrill-packed world of pro wrestling can attest.