Clemens tour moves to Trenton
Rocket to start Double-A tilt Wednesday as MLB return nears
NEW YORK -- Before Roger Clemens gets to try his Yankees pinstripes back on for size, he'll test his mettle in the Garden State.
Clemens, 44, is set to make his second Minor League start on Wednesday for the Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the Yankees. Clemens will face the Portland Sea Dogs in an Eastern League contest beginning at 7:05 p.m. ET at Trenton's Waterfront Park.
The game can be seen live and free on MLB.com and MiLB.com. Whenever Clemens is on the mound, ESPN2 will also air the game live.
On Monday, Yankees manager Joe Torre estimated that Clemens could throw between 70 and 80 pitches in that start, which will take place in front of what is expected to be a standing room crowd and the largest attendance in the ballpark's history.
"I'm trying to push myself and get ready as soon as possible," Clemens said in Tampa, Fla. last week. "But I'm trying to be smart about it as well."
Having completed his first four innings of work for the Class A Tampa Yankees last Friday against the Fort Myers Miracle, allowing one run and three hits over 58 pitches, the next step for Clemens is to ask himself if he feels prepared to make the jump on to the Major Leagues.
"You expect he's going to go out and give you quality starts," said left-hander Andy Pettitte, a close personal friend of Clemens. "You expect that if you get quality starts on this team, you're going to get a lot of wins.
"When you do that, it makes you feel good about yourself. It makes you feel good about him. I think it's going to give us a boost. It's almost like at the trade deadline when you get a new player. Instead, we're getting him two months before."
Clemens -- who signed a prorated $28 million contract earlier this month to return to the Yankees, for whom he pitched from 1999-2003 -- is considered a possibility to pitch in the Yankees' series at Rogers Centre in Toronto next week. While the Yankees have said they do not want to push Clemens one way or the other, the thinking is that he is close.
While the Yankees have said they do not want to push Clemens one way or the other, the thinking is that he is close.
"You want to believe [that Clemens might pitch in May], but you don't want to think about it, because you don't want to be disappointed if he decides that he wants another outing," Torre said.
If Clemens comes through his Double-A assignment with no issues and feels prepared for the challenge of taking on Major League batters, he could start next Monday in the opener of a three-game series against the Blue Jays.
"He didn't tell me, but I think he would like to try to come back," Pettitte said. "I think if he feels healthy enough -- you don't want to jeopardize anything, or maybe his body not being ready -- but if he feels healthy enough, they'd love to run him out there."
If it is decided that Clemens should make one more Minor League start, he would tentatively pitch in Triple-A for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on Monday at PNC Field in Moosic, Pa. The Yankees have said that Clemens will pitch at only home Minor League parks throughout their system so they can better manage the mounds for him.
Either way, Clemens' fourth professional start of 2007 appears to line up to be a compelling matchup. Plotting a five-man rotation lines Clemens to pitch June 2 against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Torre made it clear this week that the Yankees are seeking quality from Clemens' first appearances on the Major League level, while remaining realistic that he may not work exceptionally deep into games.
"I don't think he's going to come here and pitch seven or eight innings," Torre said. "If he pitches five or six innings, I think that's important. It's all about the quality of what you can do, especially starting out."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.