Clemens throws bullpen session
Rocket says elbow improving, expects to face Red Sox
TORONTO -- Roger Clemens is dealing with a troublesome ligament in his pitching forearm and a persistent blister problem that forces him to keep his right foot away from the hydrotherapy tank.
Yet, fresh off a pair of cortisone injections in his pitching elbow, the 45-year-old right-hander still has his eyes set on a mound date on Sunday at Fenway Park. It's an assignment he fully intends to take.
With manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Ron Guidry looking on, Clemens threw a bullpen session at an estimated 80 percent Tuesday at Rogers Centre in Toronto, reporting that the cortisone injections helped relieve his discomfort.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner will throw once more before he and the Yankees finalize Clemens' availability for the Red Sox series, which would mark the hurler's first start in Boston since 2003.
"Right now, I expect to [pitch]," Clemens said. "I fully expect to. Just like I've told Joe and [Guidry] and everybody who's asked, I have full confidence that the two injections helped me. I had great relief that day. The next day I was obviously sore, but [I'm] doing everything I can to push my body and do what I'm supposed to do."
Clemens left the Yankees last week for Houston, where he visited with Astros physician Robert Melhoff. The results of Clemens' original MRI, given a first opinion by Yankees team physician Stuart Hershon, were confirmed by Melhoff, who administered the injections to Clemens.
The trip was positive for Clemens, who struggled to maintain himself over his past three starts. In 15 innings against the Tigers, Red Sox and Mariners, Clemens allowed 12 earned runs and 16 hits, walking nine and striking out seven for a 7.20 ERA. He pitched just four innings before being lifted from his last start.
"It's relaxed, and it's not in a state where it feels like I'm throwing someone else's arm," Clemens said. "That's what I felt like. I felt like I had a piece of wood out there. If you miss your spots by two feet, obviously that's not good."
Clemens said that for the past three starts, he has been dealing with bleeding in his push-off foot, which he believes may have contributed to the elbow pain by slightly altering his mechanics. Clemens said he has changed shoes and socks and is trying to keep his foot out of the hydrotherapy tank to make sure it does not get moist.
"I'm just trying to battle it," Clemens said. "I've never had elbow trouble, so I would expect the problems I had with my feet and pushing off led to it. ... It's part of the wear and tear of pitching, guys. I don't know what else to tell you."
Clemens -- who is 6-6 with a 4.45 ERA in 16 starts and one relief appearance this season -- rejoined the Yankees in Toronto after skipping the Kansas City series and, having thrown lightly twice during his absence, was optimistic about finishing the year strong.
"We keep stressing that we need him out there," Torre said. "We don't need a reasonable facsimile. The problem with trying to go out there and make do is that we don't want him hurting himself. That goes far beyond anything else. I know this could be the last year of his career and people would say, 'So what? That's what he's paid to do.' But that's not what we want to do to him. We still want him to feel good."
Clemens said he has been told by doctors that his bone structure looks good, so if necessary, he could receive more cortisone injections in his elbow to finish the year. Obviously, he said, he hoped that would not be the case.
Clemens said the recent events and challenges have not prompted him to question if 2007 may be the final year of what almost certainly will be a Hall of Fame career.
"That isn't even in my thoughts right now," Clemens said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.