The Rocket is going to be pitching again Saturday night.
Roger Clemens, one of baseball’s best pitchers ever, who saw his once-certain Hall of Fame credentials called into question by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs, has signed to play for the Sugar Land Skeeters. That’s an independent professional club in Texas that plays in the Atlantic League. It is not affiliated with any Major League club.
Asked this morning about whether he sees this as something of a tryout for a Major League return, Clemens said, “I wouldn’t even consider thinking about that far ahead,” the Houston Chronicle reports. He did say of the National League’s Houston Astros, though, that “if they have questions I can help with … I’m there to help. This is my hometown.” The Astros now have the worst record in Major League Baseball.
And Fox Sports reports that Astros amateur scouting director Mike Elias has recently seen Clemens throw and says “he is in condition to pitch and pitch successfully.” Fox adds that if the Astros did add Clemens to the team once MLB clubs can expand their rosters in September, Houston “would gain a potential gate attraction for the final month of the season — a potential consideration for a team that entered the week with 40 losses in its past 47 games and fired manager Brad Mills on Saturday night.”
Clemens could come out a winner in any Major League return as well. As the Associated Press notes, he “is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going to voters late this year [and] if he plays in another Major League game, his Hall consideration would be pushed back five years.”
That might be enough time for Hall voters to have forgiven his alleged sins. Getting elected now, given the questions surrounding Clemens, is seen as a long shot at best.
Clemens has always denied using performance enhancing drugs. He was named in the “Mitchell Report,” though, as among players who had. But in June, Clemens was found not guilty of lying to Congress about his alleged actions.
He has left Major League baseball four times before, returning three times (so far) after short stays away. Clemens has a history with Houston, having pitched with the Astros for all or part of three seasons.
With the Skeeters, by the way, he’ll be playing beside a mix of mostly former minor leaguers — and a few ex-Major Leaguers such as one-time American League rookie of the year Scott Kazmir, also a pitcher.