Roger Clemens acknowledges the Sugar Land crowd while leaving Saturday… (Thomas B. Shea / Getty Images )
Roger Clemens threw 3 1/3 innings, giving up only one hit, striking out two and walking none for the Sugar Land Skeeters on Saturday night.
Not a bad outing for a 50-year-old man who hasn't pitched for a team in five years and has become more known to some as the guy who was charged with lying to Congress about alleged steroid use (he was acquitted in June).
But, surely, this was just a warmup for a seven-time Cy Young winner who is due to appear on baseball's Hall of Fame ballot later this year. No one has said how far this comeback will go. But does anyone really believe that Clemens wants to end his legendary career -- no matter how tainted it became -- with a team called the Skeeters in the independent Atlantic League?
That's why there's been plenty of speculation that this is a mere stepping stone on the way to a return to the majors. The Houston Astros have even said they wouldn't rule out bringing Clemens back this season
And it just so happens that there were a couple of major league scouts -- from the Astros and the Kansas City Royals -- at Saturday's game. One of those scouts, Ron Toenjes of the Royals, said Clemens' performance will do nothing to silence all the rumors.
“I think it will fuel that speculation,” Toenjes said. “I just don't know what will happen. I don't think anyone does.”
Tal Smith, a former Astros' executive and current special adviser to the Skeeters, was impressed with Clemens' command. He said he believes "The Rocket" could pitch in the majors again.
"I probably overextended myself a little bit," Clemens said. "I wanted to see where I was at. Anytime you do these, they're fun but you don't want to go out and embarrass yourself or embarrass the club."
Clemens struck out two in a 1-2-3 first inning. With a fastball that was clocked at 88 mph -- and some curves and splitters mixed in -- he finished by forcing four groundouts and four flyouts.
“The thing that I was impressed with is you have a 50-year-old man out there throwing 87-88 most of the night, and he's got a real good splitter,” Toenjes said. “His command wasn't as good as it could have been, but that was a good, hard splitter, which is what you wanted to see.”
This is Moneyball, L.A. style
Albert Pujols out until at least Tuesday
Roger Clemens pitches for independent league team