Roger Clemens has not pitched in the majors since 2007. That may or may not be changing in the near future. Clemens is downplaying a possible return to Major League Baseball and the fastball velocity has dipped but he still has the itch and the competitiveness needed. That’s why at 50-years-old, Clemens has agreed to join the Sugar Land Skeeters. Clemens will start this Saturday for the independent Atlantic League team, which will be a big step-up in competition in comparison to his over-50 softball league that he is playing against.
Roger Clemens joined KILT in Houston with Josh Innes and Rich Lord to talk about how many of his friends he has heard from since announcing he is going to pitch this weekend, how much he is putting into Saturday’s outing, how often he has been throwing off a mound, what kind of quality competition he expects to see Saturday and whether this is paving the way for a return to Major League Baseball.
How many of his friends have contacted him since he announced he was going to pitch this weekend:
“Willy Taveras called me and said do you need a centerfielder and I said absolutely. Then my old teammate in Boston, Scott Cooper, said he can play third base and drive in a run. Give me another couple of hours and I’ll get (Craig) Biggio at second and then we will go from there and see where we’re at here.”
How much he is putting into Saturday’s outing:
“Saturday should be fun if my legs stay underneath me. I pushed it pretty hard the other day so I’m going to ice and do a little stretching and hopefully get out there and make a decent showing. I wouldn’t put too much into it but it was fun and like you guys said I appreciate the turnout over there. Gary Gaetti has been after me, our former hitting coach with the Astros, managing that team and he’s been talking to me for about four months to do it and the boys egging me on. Went down to see Dr. Andrews and he was messing with me so we’re going to have fun with it. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out but we will have some fun with it.”
How often he throws off a mound:
“Probably at least twice a week. Sometimes it’s closer to 55 feet. When I went up to New Hampshire and threw to Coby’s Double A team, their manager Sal is a former catcher in the big leagues, some of the coaches throw from about 30 feet and I can’t get up behind that L screen and behind that piece of turf and throw from that distance. It’s too difficult for me so I scoot back to about 55 feet and if I’m feeling good I won’t use the mat. I will just get on the mound and have the L screen for the boys. They seem to like it because they see probably 80 to 85 and they like to see it live. It’s no different and I kidded people, when we go to the rodeo cook-off every year and they have the carnival and the guy is sitting in the dunking tank and doesn’t recognize me, he starts mouthing me and I can’t hit him from 20 feet. I get the boys to buy me about 20 balls, I back up to about 60 feet and I can dunk him a few times.”
On the kind of competition he thinks he will face Saturday:
“I will have to make good pitches out there. Really pitch and move the ball around to have any kind of good showing whatsoever. They have some guys that will swing the bat and I looked at the numbers of the guys and they’ve had some guys, that’s what they’re there for, they’re trying to get out of there and get back to playing professional ball. One of my former teammates, Jason Lane, has been throwing very well. I haven’t seen him, we texted each other and I wasn’t aware until about four or five days ago when Gary talked to me and said Kazmir is there so I’m looking forward to seeing him. They said that they would enjoy for me to talk to him a little bit and see where his mind is at because he really is 27 or 28-years-old and trying to get back to where he was at before.”
This doesn’t mean you’re coming back to the majors right?
“That is correct. I’m going out here for a little fun. I have something that I want to do hopefully if I can get through it but like I said right now I’m nowhere close to getting ready to pitch for a Major League game. I have to, like I told the guys at the press conference, big difference between throwing and working out, running Memorial Park and doing the things that I’m doing around town to stay in shape than actually when Brian Cashman or the Houston Astros call and say ‘we would like you to come back and try again.’ That’s a whole different mindset. It’s a training routine and I have to go into extremely difficult pitching mode. I’m not close and I know I have a couple of balls up there pretty decent speed but I will have my hands full. This will be a little bit of work and then we will have some fun mixed in between it.”
What expectations he has for Saturday:
“We’re just basically going out to have a lot of fun. Gary and I have been commenting on this since April. I had Doc Andrews make a comment to me and just a few other guys so there isn’t really an ultimate goal right now. I don’t have any expectations. If I can get through three solid innings of five solid innings, like what would be a spring training start, if we brought some attention to the Skeeters obviously I appreciate all the attention that came there way and well deserved. I watched that stadium going up and they have been kind of sitting back and listening to our conversations that Gary and I have had and so I’m going to give it a go for them. We’re going to try to have fun, hope I throw well and I just want everyone to have a good time.”