By KRISTIE RIEKEN, Associated Press
SUGAR LAND, Texas (AP) — Roger Clemens was back on the mound again Friday night and the 50-year-old didn't disappoint.
However, those hoping to see Clemens pitch for the Houston Astros this season are probably out of luck.
"At this point I don't see that happening, because I just know my recovery time right now," he said regarding pitching for Houston this season. "And I think I've pushed my body and shoulder to where it needs to be."
But true to form, Clemens, who has already come out of retirement three times to pitch in the majors, left open the possibility of a return in the future.
"I would have to get ready," Clemens said. "It would be fun. There's no reason why I couldn't do it next year."
Clemens pitched 4 2-3 scoreless innings for Sugar Land of the independent Atlantic League with his oldest son Koby catching him against Long Island.
Pitching in front of a sellout crowd that included country music star and Clemens buddy Toby Keith and Houston rapper Paul Wall, Clemens looked better than he did last month when he tossed 3 1-3 scoreless innings for the Skeeters.
He allowed two hits and struck out one and was awarded the win by the official scorer in the 4-0 Sugar Land victory.
"What a special game this is when you have opportunity at 50 to go out there and play a little catch with your oldest son," Clemens said.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner pitched a perfect first inning before getting his only strikeout when he caught Brandon Sing looking to start the second. The first hit was a two-out single by Matt Esquivel in the second. He retired the side in the third and allowed one hit — a single — in the fourth.
His last out of the fourth inning was a flyout on a ball hit by former Met Timo Perez. He had faced Clemens before, going 0 for 4 against him the second game of the 2000 World Series.
He retired the first two hitters in the fifth before hugging his son and heading to the dugout to a standing ovation.
"I've haven't done that and I've never been driven to the ballpark by my batterymate either," Clemens said of his on-field embrace with Koby. "He was giving me a little bit of advice while he was driving on the way in."
For the first time, Clemens is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going out to voters later this year. If he plays in a major league game this season, his timetable would be pushed back five years.
The Rocket's fastball was clocked at as high as 88 mph, and he also threw curves and splitters.
He threw 54 pitches, and looked spry fielding a dribbler and throwing a batter out at first in the fourth inning.
"After having only pitched twice competitively in the last five years or so, I think it's great progress," said Tal Smith, a longtime former Astros executive who is now a special advisor to the Skeeters. "His command, his stuff and certainly his knowledge of pitching and his acumen are good enough to pitch at any level I think."
The Astros have two homestands remaining. They face two teams that are out of contention next week in the Cubs and Phillies. The last homestand beginning Sept. 21 features Pittsburgh and St. Louis, both in the NL wild-card hunt.
Last-place Houston has said it would be open to the idea of bringing back Clemens. The Astros sent a scout to watch to watch both of his outings for the Skeeters.
"Of course the ultimate goal from a fan's perspective is to watch him pitch for the Astros at Minute Maid, but this is just a step toward that," said Wall, the rapper who named his son William after Clemens' first name. "I don't know if it will ever happen or if he wants to do that. But that's something that we as the fans want."
Clemens returned to the field in the middle of the fifth inning with Keith by his side. The crowd raised thousands of red cups that were passed out as Keith's hit song "Red Solo Cup," whose video Clemens makes a cameo in, played.
"He's still bringing the gas and it's pretty amazing," said Keith, who watched the game from the dugout.
It was the second time Clemens and his son Koby have shared a professional baseball field together. The two were teammates in 2006 when the elder Clemens was making his comeback with the Astros and pitched a game for Class-A Lexington. This one is different, though, because Koby played third base in that game.