Roger Clemens Sterling for Skeeters in Return to Baseball, Says He’s Not Planning Major League Comeback


Roger Clemens Sterling for Skeeters in Return to Baseball, Says He's Not Planning Major League ComebackSUGAR LAND, Texas — Roger Clemens raved about all the fun he had pitching at age 50 and putting smiles on the faces of Sugar Land baseball fans. Still, it wasn't enough to set his mind on a major league comeback — at least not yet.

"No," Clemens said. "I've had success before at that level and other things. Again, it's a great deal of work, and I'm not thinking that at this point."

Pitching for the first time in five years, Clemens tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday night for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.

He faced the Bridgeport Bluefish and struck out two, including former major leaguer Joey Gathright to start the game. He allowed one hit without a walk and threw 37 pitches.

Scouts from the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals were on hand to see Clemens' comeback — for however long it lasts and wherever it leads.

"I think it will fuel that speculation," Royals pro scout Ron Toenjes said after watching the performance. "I just don't know what will happen. I don't think anyone does."

Clemens received a standing ovation when he left the game. He stopped to tip his cap to the overflow crowd of 7,724 before heading into the dugout to begin recuperating and see how his body responds to his big night.

Sugar Land manager Gary Gaetti, a two-time All-Star third baseman with the Minnesota Twins, said he was impressed by Clemens' outing after such a long layoff. He admitted before the game he was a bit concerned about how things would go because of Clemens' age and time off.

"He did a great job," Gaetti said. "He really did."

Tal Smith, a longtime Astros executive and currently a special adviser to the Skeeters, said Clemens had great command, and he thinks he could pitch in the majors again.

The Rocket agreed to join the Skeeters on Monday after throwing a simulated game for team officials. He was still feeling the effects from that workout Saturday, and said he would have pushed back this start if he didn't have other commitments coming up in the next few days.

"I probably overextended myself a little bit," Clemens said, later adding that he'll be spending a lot of time icing his aging body in the upcoming days. "I wanted to see where I was at. Anytime you do these, they're fun, but you don't want to go out and embarrass yourself or embarrass the club."

He didn't rule out the possibility of making another start for the Skeeters, and said he'd discuss it with Gaetti in the next few days.

"We'll visit, and if we can do something special down the road, we'll do it again for some of the people that couldn't get here," Clemens said. "I'm definitely open to it if they want to do it. It was a great deal of fun for me now that it's over and I stayed healthy."

Clemens certainly was happy to be back on a diamond instead of in a courtroom. In June, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner was acquitted of charges he lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens, who last pitched for the New York Yankees in 2007, worked a 1-2-3 first inning and fanned two. His fastball was clocked at 88 mph, and he mixed in curves and splitters. He finished with four groundouts and four flyouts.

Toenjes liked what he saw.

"The thing that I was impressed with is you have a 50-year-old man out there throwing 87-88 [mph] most of the night, and he's got a real good splitter," he said. "His command wasn't as good as it could have been, but that it was a good, hard splitter, which is what you wanted to see."

Wearing the No. 21 that he sported during his rise to fame with Boston nearly three decades ago, Clemens got a big cheer when he took the mound.

After whiffing Gathright, Clemens retired Luis Figueroa on a grounder and struck out Prentice Redman to end the inning. The sellout crowd, with many fans wearing Skeeters T-shirts with Clemens' name on them, gave him another loud ovation.

Gathright thought Clemens would be more erratic.

"He didn't lose any command. Everything was pretty good for somebody that age," Gathright said.

Clemens didn't allow a hit until James Simmons' single with two outs in the second. He retired the next batter to end the eight-pitch inning.

Clemens has a bit of a belly that scores of 50-year-olds have, but he was effective enough against many hitters who were almost half his age.

He is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going out to voters late this year. If he plays in a major league game this season, his consideration for Cooperstown would be pushed back five years.

Clemens, who wore gray cleats with bright yellow accents, needed 13 pitches to get through a perfect third inning. He threw one more pitch after that and Figueroa lined out to end Clemens' night with the Skeeters on top 1-0. That was the final score, too.

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