No, he’s not signing on to be a pitching coach, or a minor league manager, or to coach his (grand)son’s Little League team. The guy is attempting a comeback on the mound for a professional baseball team.
In this case, it’s just the lowly Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. But many believe that’s his first step toward a major league roster.
And as the embattled Clemens has shown throughout his spectacular career, it’s never wise to say he can’t do something. Don’t forget, 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-tying seventh Cy Young Award, and then going 13-8 with a career-low 1.87 ERA in 2005.
If you have any doubts about his 50-year-old body and think this is just some publicity gimmick, consider this:
“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 warm-up.”
Clemens is expected to start for the minor league team on Saturday at home against Bridgeport.
According to his agent, Clemens and Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti have been talking about this “for months.”
Clemens will be holding a news conference tomorrow in Sugar Land, about 20 miles southwest of Houston.
Clemens, who was 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 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, told ESPN that Clemens is “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.”
Clemens earned $160 million and won 354 games in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros. His 4,672 strikeouts are third-most all-time and he was named to 11 All-Star Games.
Though the old guys around the league like Yankees manager Joe Girardi, three years younger than Clemens, were excited about the possibilities, not everybody was a fan of the idea.
“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 appeared in a major league game his Hall consideration would be pushed back five years.