Clemens effective in comeback, avoids speculation about future

SUGAR LAND, Texas – Roger Clemens raved about all the fun he had pitching at age 50 and putting smiles on the faces of Sugar Land Skeeters 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 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 with the Minnesota Twins, said he was impressed by Clemens’ outing after such a long layoff.

“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 that 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 in the next few days.

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.

Clemens, wearing the No. 21 he sported during his rise to fame with Boston nearly three decades ago, 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 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.

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