Clemens extends himself in Trenton

Rocket reaches 102 pitches in second Minor League start

(Danny Wild/

May 23, 2007 8:35 PM

TRENTON, N.J. -- It wasn't pretty like his first start, but Roger Clemens stretched his arm out even further in his outing Wednesday night, throwing 102 pitches -- with 64 strikes -- over 5 1/3 innings for the Double-A Trenton Thunder.

The length of the outing and Clemens feeling pretty good about himself indicate the Rocket could be ready to join the Yankees next week in Toronto -- and not just for a friendly visit.

"I think that will be something that the watchful eyes that were here -- and from what I understand, there was more than a handful of watchful eyes -- that will help decide that," Clemens said. "All I can do is tell them how I felt, tell them how I feel [Thursday] and then throw a little more intense bullpen [session] than I normally throw on Friday,. Then we'll go from there."

Clemens allowed three runs on six hits -- four for extra bases -- walked four and struck out five, leaving to a standing ovation at Waterfront Park with one out in the sixth and down, 3-2, to Portland.

Noah Hall tied the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth, and Trenton took home a 4-3 win in the 10th on Jamal Strong's RBI single.

Clemens threw more than usual in the bullpen before the game with the intention of, according to catcher P.J. Pilittere, "going four or five [innings] and making it feel like seven or eight."

It looked that way early as The Rocket labored in the first inning, a 30-pitch frame in which Clemens got ahead of hitters only to walk three. Of the three free passes, two came after Clemens started the hitter with a 1-2 count.

But after Andrew Pinckney coaxed the third walk of the inning to load the bases, Clemens got Bryan Pritz to fly out to right field and keep Portland off the scoreboard.

Clemens settled down over the next two innings, but allowed a run in the third. Portland's Jed Lowrie smacked Clemens' second offering of the frame into right for a double, advanced to third on Cory Keylor's grounder to first and scored on Jay Johnson's grounder to shortstop.

The fourth and fifth innings went easily for The Rocket, as he needed just 10 and 11 pitches respectively in those innings.

That had most of the record Waterfront Park crowd of 9,134 -- including Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein -- figuring the fifth would be Clemens' final inning. It also hinted that Clemens could make his Yankees debut during the series in Toronto next week.

"I did everything I wanted to do with the baseball, pretty much."
-- Roger Clemens, on his Wednesday start

So should Clemens be looking for his passport?

"I'll keep that in-house," Clemens said of what he would tell the Yankees should they ask him whether he could start for them in five days.

The Yankees seem as if they're ready for the Rocket.

"We never felt there was a question with his arm," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Throwing 102 pitches, I guess his legs must be under him. That's really what he was waiting for. If he feels he's ready to come with us and start pitching for us, we're ready to have him."

The 44-year-old Clemens came out for the sixth and promptly gave up back-to-back singles to Pinckney and Pritz to open the inning. After Scott Youngbauer sacrificed both runners into scoring position, Clemens plunked John Otness on the shoulder to load the bases.

Clemens then walked Iggy Suarez on seven pitches -- despite getting ahead in the count 1-2 -- plating another run and allowing the Sea Dogs to tie the game, 2-2. That pushed Clemens over the 100-pitch mark and resulted in his exit to a second standing ovation.

"They wanted to shut me down after five, but I felt fine -- I wanted to continue," he said. "I need to get reps, a lot of them."

Clemens was charged with a third run when reliever Michael Gardner walked his first batter with the bases still loaded.

"I did everything I wanted to do with the baseball, pretty much," Clemens said, though he cited some problems with his splitter because of the difference in size between the Major and Minor League baseball. "I threw all my pitches. This was no different than my expectations of what I had going into this last year. I expected this."

In his first start for Class A Advanced Tampa on Friday, Clemens threw 58 pitches over four innings, allowing a run on three hits while striking out two.

And just like he did in Tampa, Clemens took time out to talk with the pitchers and catchers before the game, giving them an opportunity to pick the brain of a future Hall of Famer.

Clemens took extra fielding practice with the pitchers about two hours before batting practice and then spent roughly a half-hour with them on the field -- just talking about baseball.

"They asked plenty of questions and it was a good day," said Clemens, who signed a prorated $28 million deal with the Yankees earlier this month in a move to bolster the rotation. "I enjoy [talking with younger players] far more than what I'm doing. I know the process and I know what comes with it. Most importantly, I need to go out there and pitch and be smart about it, get healthy, get ready. But for the last four or five years, my job is far greater than just pitching a baseball."

Peter Zellen is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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