Roger Clemens returning to baseball
When Roger Clemens pitches Saturday night for the Sugar Land
Skeeters it will be the first time the 50-year-old has taken the
mound in almost five years.
Will he still be the Rocket who intimidated hitters in the
majors for more than 20 years? Or will his extended absence and age
leave him struggling against players less skilled than the ones he
used to face?
Clemens signed with the Skeeters of the independent Atlantic
League on Monday and he is expected to start for the minor league
team on Saturday at home against Bridgeport.
”His fastball was clocked at 87 mph. All of his pitches were
working,” said Randy Hendricks, Clemens’ agent. ”He threw a
three-inning simulated game after an extensive workout
Clemens and Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti have been talking about
this ”for months,” Hendricks said. Clemens is expected to discuss
his decision Tuesday during a news conference in Sugar Land, about
20 miles southwest of Houston.
His signing has some wondering if it is the first step in a
return to the majors.
Minnesota Twins manager and fellow Texas Longhorn Ron Gardenhire
cracked a joke when asked about Clemens on Monday.
”I’ll take that Longhorn any day. I don’t know all the rules,
but I’ll be tampering: We do have a spot, right?” Gardenhire said,
Clemens, acquitted in June of charges he lied to Congress when
he denied using performance-enhancing drugs, hasn’t played for a
team since pitching for the New York Yankees in 2007 at the age of
45. He went 6-6 in 18 games with a 4.18 ERA that season.
Texas Rangers pitcher Roy Oswalt, a former teammate of Clemens
with the Astros, is excited about his friend’s return to
”I think he’s going to show everybody that all that stuff that
he had to go through had nothing to do with the success he had in
the big leagues,” Oswalt said. ”He said he’s going to do it a
little bit and see how his body responds. I wouldn’t be surprised
next year if he’s pitching in the big leagues for somebody.”
Clemens has been throwing batting practice to one of his sons
often, and Oswalt said that Clemens ”feels pretty good.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who is three years younger than
Clemens, said it is difficult to get that urge to compete out of
”He’s always loved to compete,” Girardi said of Clemens.
”That’s who he is. He kept coming back. There were times he felt
he couldn’t quite go a full season, but he gave it as much as he
had. He loved to compete. That’s a hard thing to replace is that
competition. Guys miss it.”
Clemens had two great seasons with the Astros after he turned
40, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 2004 to win his record seventh Cy
Young Award. He was 13-8 with a career-low 1.87 ERA in 2005.
Clemens earned $160 million and won 354 games in a 24-year
career with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros. His 4,672
strikeouts are third-most and he was named to 11 All-Star
Now he will see what he has left for the Skeeters. He joins a
roster that includes former major league pitchers Tim Redding and
Scott Kazmir and Jason Lane, a teammate of Clemens’ on Houston’s
2005 World Series team.
”That’s great, if he thinks he can do it,” Gardenhire said.
”He worked harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. His routine and
program, I don’t think too many people could stay with that. If he
has continued to work out, he’s probably in good enough shape.
(He’s) a big strong Texan.”
It isn’t clear how long Clemens will pitch for the Skeeters.
”This is a one-game-at-a-time thing,” Hendricks said. ”Let’s
see how he does on Saturday.”
Some in baseball weren’t quite as keen on the idea as
”He didn’t travel with the Astros half the time toward the end
there,” Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson said. ”I can’t imagine him
traveling for the Sugar Land Skeeters. I’m sure they’ll draw a good
crowd and it will be fun, but it’s kind of those things you read
about it and you’re like: `What’s he doing?”’
Clemens is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going to
voters late this year. If he plays in another major league game,
his Hall consideration would be pushed back five years.
Clemens was accused of using steroids and HGH in the Mitchell
Report on drugs in baseball, something he denied. The Justice
Department began an investigation concerning whether Clemens had
lied under oath, and in 2010 a grand jury indicted him on two
counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one
count of obstructing Congress when he testified during a deposition
and at a hearing that he never used any performance-enhancing
He was acquitted of all the charges on June 19 after a 10-week
trial and has largely stayed out of the public spotlight until
”I think he’s going to come back and try to prove a lot of
doubters wrong,” Oswalt said.
The signing was first reported by Houston television station
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum, Stephen Hawkins, Rick Gano and
Janie McCauley contributed to this report.