"You have to
understand coming in that you're going to get into two or three predicaments
that you have to get out of. So when you get in them, you don't blink. You just
go back to making good quality pitches and you go from there."
Most often, it is
the splitter that rescues Clemens from trouble. "He has such confidence in
that pitch that he'll throw it at any time," says the Mets' Wright. "He
threw me a 3-and-0 split--with a runner on third base. Now that's having
confidence in the pitch.
even bother watching video [on Clemens] before this game. You know why? He
always stays away from pitching to patterns. You're not going to pick up that
kind of stuff on him."
Says one National
League scout who has seen both of Clemens's starts, "He's primarily a
fastball-splitter pitcher; 80% of his breaking balls are going to be
first-pitch, get-it-over pitches to lefthanders. It's mostly a case of locating
his fastball to sell the splitter. He's the same way with his splitter that
Randy Johnson is now with his slider. It's their primary pitch and they have to
be able to spot their fastball to set it up. Neither one is dominant like they
used to be, but they are solid number twos or threes in anybody's rotation. And
I think you'll see Roger, as he makes more starts, gain a couple of more clicks
on his fastball with a little more finish to it, that late life."
Clemens' plan of
attack relies less on velocity than on what he calls "creating my
angles"--though he proudly claims, "Oh, that 95 [mph], it's there. I
can get that now if I need it. I can go there two, three times if I need
to." His two-seamer, which has a darting, sinking action, and his splitter,
which is cloaked in a two-seamer's clothing only to dive more sharply, are
designed to be thrown low. His four-seamer occupies higher airspace.
I'm pitching in a comfortable spot--90 to 92 is plenty," Clemens says.
"But what I really want to continue to do is to be down in the zone when I
want to be and up in the zone when I have to be. It's no different than 10
years ago. You move guys' eye levels."
Mike Mussina, "He hadn't pitched in how many months? Six or seven? And he
can have this kind of command in just two starts back? Now that's
has also been surprising. After throwing 104 pitches through six innings
against the Mets, he was given the choice by Torre on whether to continue.
Clemens said he would. He retired the leadoff hitter, Julio Franco, on a ground
ball but left after the next batter, Carlos Gomez, bunted for a base hit.
baseman Robinson Cano was 18 months old when Clemens made his major league
debut. "The first time I met him was right before his first start [against
the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 9]," Cano says. "He went around the
clubhouse and shook people's hands and said, 'Hi, I'm Roger Clemens.' It was
exciting to meet him and to play with a Hall of Fame player like that. He's
bigger in person than what I thought."
had so little time to get to know the Yankees who weren't his teammates in New
York four years ago that shortstop Derek Jeter made a joke of it before Clemens
threw his first pitch that day. Jeter walked up to the mound and said,
"Seems like old times, Rocket, doesn't it? This is pretty cool. By the way,
that's Robinson Cano at second base and Josh Phelps at first base and. . .