For the fifth time since the start of the 2003 World Series, people are speculating that Roger Clemens may have pitched his last professional game. ESPN says both that Roger "pitched well" and that he "wasn't at his best" in last night's WBC game. With 2 runs over 4-1/3 with 4 K's and no walks, I'd say he was OK. You can only guess what Team USA's early exit from the WBC will do to Clemens' decision-making process as he contemplates pitching in the majors in 2006.
But certainly, the way he left last night's elimination game made one wonder whether it matters all that much. While Clemens' departure vs. Team Mexico was not quite the disaster that his exit from Game 1 of World Series was, and while the pitch counts in place would have prevented him from going much further anyway, you really have to wonder whether the man should have been as fatigued as all that.
ESPN quotes Buck Martinez as saying Roger was looking for lifeboats. "Rocket looked at me and looked fatigued. . . He says, 'What do you got out there?' That was a sign that he felt like I did. We probably had a better shot with a fresh arm out there."
Sure, he pitched five innings against South Africa, but with a double digit lead pitching against Team Krugerrand couldn't have been that stressful. When he began training for the WBC six weeks ago, Clemens was coming off 3-1/2 months of rest.
It is of course possible that the training regimen Rocket would institute if he decided to let's say return for the Astros on June 1 would be designed to bring him back at peak strength that wouldn't see him departing fatigued after 4-1/3 innings in his second game.
Certainly Clemens knows his own body better than anyone else. But perhaps all this will he-won't-he-retire speculation is wheel spinning at its most sublimely ridiculous, because the assumption--that he'd be able to help--is more than a little shaky.
Speaking of former Yankees pitchers thinking about retirement, maybe you saw the New York Times story that suggests that Andy Pettitte won't be in the game much longer after 2006.
The great thing about baseball is you can take everything with whatever amounts of salt you wish. So you can dismiss the above as posturing on either Andy's or the writer's part. And you can dismiss the following from the Injury Report at the Hardball Times as overly conjectural, if you want, as well:
Andy Pettitte (LHP, HOU)
The Yankees felt part of his elbow woes were due to his cut-fastball, which puts stress on his pitching elbow.
Since the 2001-2002 seasons, Pettitte has developed a noticeable trend. In odd years he posts over 200 innings, but struggled in even years (2002 and 2004). Does this mean he'll fail to get to 200 innings this season, an even numbered year? His recent history says yes.
Pettitte was dominating last season, and it didn't hurt to have his best friend Roger Clemens on the staff. Without Clemens this year, more of the burden falls on him. Combine this with his odd-even yearly trend and you have to wonder if he'll lose time to the DL, or struggle in 2006.
Please give a rousing Houston Astrofan round of applause, and welcome back Bradley Lidge, and Dan Wheeler! We know that the US choke job wasn't their fault!