Roger Clemens returns to baseball with Sugar Land Skeeters

Roger Clemens pitches during a workout with minor Roger Clemens pitches during a workout with minor leaguers at the Houston Astros spring training facility in Kissimmee, Fla. (Feb. 28, 2008) Photo Credit: AP

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Roger Clemens is relaunching The Rocket.

The 50-year-old former Yankees pitcher, who last appeared in the major leagues in 2007, will be on the mound Saturday night for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. Sugar Land is just outside of Houston and near Clemens' home in Katy, Texas.

Most recently seen in a Washington courtroom successfully defending himself against federal perjury charges, Clemens has since turned his attention to getting his prized shoulder in shape, hitting 87 mph during a bullpen session Monday, according to his agent Randy Hendricks.

It is not known if Clemens thinks he can make it back to the majors at age 50. Clemens has not commented on the comeback, but his agent described it as "basically a fun thing." Skeeters president Matt O'Brien said he expects to see major-league scouts in attendance, even if merely out of curiosity. Clemens is expected to talk about his comeback at a news conference Tuesday.

"Let's see how he does," Hendricks said. "If he does well, he may pitch for them again."

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A major-league team would need to sign Clemens before Aug. 31 for him to be eligible for the postseason, and most baseball officials do not expect to see that happen. The Yankees do not plan to send a scout, according to a person familiar with the situation.

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Once known for making annual comebacks, Clemens' major-league career effectively ended in December 2007 when Major League Baseball's Mitchell Report identified him as a former steroid user based on information his former trainer, Brian McNamee, provided to investigators.

Clemens' denial of those accusations before Congress led to federal perjury charges; Clemens received a full acquittal of all six counts in June following a 10-week trial.

Clemens stayed in shape during the trial by working out and running three miles every day, attorney Rusty Hardin said. "Is he in pitching shape? I don't know," Hardin said. "But he's in better shape than any other 50-year-old ex-ballplayer. That I'm sure of."

Former teammate Derek Jeter, who is having his own rebirth with an outstanding season at age 38, supported Clemens' comeback bid. "Whatever makes him happy," Jeter said before a game in Chicago Monday night. "If he still has the desire to do it and someone is willing to let him do it, then who is anyone to tell him when he should stop doing something he loves to do."

Clemens won 354 games and struck out 4,672 during a 24-year career with the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros and Blue Jays. His last major-league appearance was Oct. 7, 2007, a no-decision in Game 3 of the Yankees-Indians Division Series. He is scheduled to make his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot this winter. If he pitches in the majors this season, his candidacy would be delayed at least another five years.

With the Skeeters, Clemens is joining a starting rotation that already includes former major leaguers Scott Kazmir, Tim Redding and Jason Lane. Many former big-leaguers try to make it back by playing for independent leagues such as the Atlantic League, which is also home to the Long Island Ducks.

O'Brien, the Skeeters president, said Clemens had been expressing interest in pitching for them through "some back channels for a little bit," which set the stage for a workout before team officials Monday.

And Clemens came away from his "tryout" apparently satisfied with the state of his shoulder and his pitches.

"Roger has always been in shape but he's been working on getting in game shape," O'Brien said. "Today was a good step in showing, yep, he's ready to pitch . . . He told us and he told himself, 'Let's do this.' "

With Erik Boland

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