The name Roger Clemens used to stand for pitching excellence. Then the whole steroids fiasco occurred. Acquitted or not in regards to lying about using it — he said he didn't — his name is now one of the premier ones brought up when people are asked to talk about the 'steroids era' in baseball. Now, with the dust settled on his court appearances, and perhaps because he has a bone or two to pick, Clemens is returning to the mound to show that he still has the stuff that made him nearly legendary.
Clemens is set to make his return to the mound this Saturday night for the Sugar Land Skeeters, a minor league team in the Houston, Texas area, and his return brings a new host of questions about the man who terrorized hitters for 20 years.
Clemens, who signed with the Skeeters on Monday, has been talking about his comeback with Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti for months, and even though his last real pitching gig was for the New York Yankees in 2007 where he went 6-6 in 18 games with a 4.18 ERA, the 50-year-old has still shown signs that there is some juice left in the tank.
"His fastball was clocked at 87 mph. All of his pitches were working," said Randy Hendricks, Clemens' agent. "He threw a three-inning simulated game after an extensive workout warmup."
While that may answer the question of if he can still pitch, the why's are going to be coming out of the mouths of every reporter that can get within earshot of the man with the 'Rocket' arm. Texas Rangers pitcher Roy Oswalt, a former teammate of Clemens with the Astros, has his own theory as to why Clemens is trying this resurgence and believes that the 50-year-old could eventually end back up in the Majors.
"I think he's going to show everybody that all that stuff that he had to go through had nothing to do with the success he had in the big leagues," Oswalt said. "He said he's going to do it a little bit and see how his body responds. I wouldn't be surprised next year if he's pitching in the big leagues for somebody."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who is three years younger than Clemens, offered his take on the why, stating that some players find it very hard to walk away from a successful career.
"He's always loved to compete," Girardi said of Clemens. "That's who he is. He kept coming back. There were times he felt he couldn't quite go a full season, but he gave it as much as he had. He loved to compete. That's a hard thing to replace is that competition. Guys miss it."
However, not everyone is as positive about Clemens returning to baseball. Some players, like former teammate Brett Anderson, remember Clemens at the end of his career, when he was with the Houston Astros, and can't see the pitcher doing this for very long.
"He didn't travel with the Astros half the time toward the end there," Anderson said. "I can't imagine him traveling for the Sugar Land Skeeters. I'm sure they'll draw a good crowd and it will be fun, but it's kind of those things you read about it and you're like: 'What's he doing?'"
Clemens, for his Major League Career, earned $160 million and won 354 games in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros. His 4,672 strikeouts are third-most all-time and he was named to 11 All-Star games.
He is set to give a press conference Tuesday to explain his return to the game.
James LeBeau is a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports and you can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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