Might Roger Clemens be thinking beyond the Sugar Land Skeeters?
Mike Elias, the Houston Astros’ amateur scouting director, watched Clemens throw Monday before the right-hander signed with the Texas-based Skeeters, who play in the independent Atlantic League.
“He is in condition to pitch and pitch successfully,” said former Astros club president Tal Smith, who is now a consultant and special adviser to the Sugar Land ownership and witnessed Clemens’ bullpen session Monday.
“How that translates to the major leagues, obviously, that’s a little bit different. But I wouldn’t put it past him.”
Clemens, 50, will start for the Skeeters on Saturday and supposedly plans to take his comeback on a game-to-game basis. But both Clemens and the Astros could be motivated for the legendary pitcher to return to Houston after the rosters expand in September.
By returning to the majors, Clemens could restart his Hall of Fame clock — his first year of eligibility currently is 2013, but he would postpone that until five years after his next retirement if he pitched even in one major-league game.
The Astros, meanwhile, would gain a potential gate attraction for the final month of the season — a potential consideration for a team that entered the week with 40 losses in its past 47 games and fired manager Brad Mills on Saturday night.
Clemens has said in the past that he isn’t worried about getting elected to the Hall of Fame, but delaying his eligibility not only would move him off next year’s crowded ballot, but also could help soften the voters’ perception of him over time.
He was accused in the Mitchell Report of using steroids and HGH, claims he denied. He was investigated by the Justice Department concerning whether he lied under oath, but was acquitted of all charges related to that on June 19.
Clemens ran three miles on Monday before throwing his bullpen session at Sugar Land’s Constellation Field. His fastball registered 87 mph, Smith said, and Clemens showed good command of his breaking stuff.
“He is in incredible shape,” said Smith, who was a top executive with the Astros when Clemens was with the team from 2004-06. “It was very hot out here, and he threw and threw.”