Clemens pitches three innings for Class A team

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A pitching legend, pitching as a Legend, began his latest comeback Tuesday night on an unfamiliar mound in the low minor leagues with -- what else? -- a strikeout.

Roger Clemens showed pinpoint control and a sharp fastball during his tuneup for the Class A Lexington Legends, an affiliate of the Houston Astros. Playing alongside his son Koby, he gave up a long home run but otherwise looked like his old self in three innings of work against the Lake County Captains, a Cleveland Indians affiliate.

"I wouldn't expect really any soreness whatsoever," Clemens said. "My arm is great. ... One step down, two to go."

Next up is probably a start Sunday at Double A Corpus Christi, followed by another one June 16 at Triple A Round Rock. Clemens could be pitching in the big leagues by June 22 against Minnesota.

Clemens, 43, is accustomed to facing the likes of Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon, but it was Captains center fielder Johnny Drennen who took him deep Tuesday night.

Drennen, the third hitter Clemens faced, drove a fastball off the party deck beyond the right-field wall for a solo homer.

Drennen said he got "goose bumps," but Clemens joked he just gave him a pitch to hit because they share the same uniform number -- No. 22. "I'm sure I'll visit him tomorrow -- ask him how that room service was," Clemens said.

Next up was Matt Fornasiere, who also hit the ball hard -- lining a double to right-center.

The only other hit Clemens allowed was a weakly hit infield single in the third.

Otherwise, Clemens was hardly touched. He threw 62 pitches, allowed no walks and only the one run while striking out six -- two in each inning.

He tipped his hat and pumped his fist to thunderous applause by a record crowd for a Legends home game as he came off the mound after the third.
Clemens departed with the Legends ahead 5-1. They won 7-4.

Niuman Romero, the Lake County Captain with the distinction of digging in first against the Rocket, struck out looking on four pitches. In his second at-bat, he hit a deep fly to center.

It wouldn't be a Clemens outing without a brushback pitch, and he didn't disappoint. He nailed Marshall Szabo in the shoulder and pushed Fernando Pacheco back with a chin-high fastball. Pacheco ultimately struck out.

Besides his much-anticipated return to the mound, it was a special game for Clemens because he got to play with his son, the Legends' third baseman.

"The whole atmosphere was completely different with him on the mound," Koby Clemens said. "You could feel his presence."

Koby Clemens delivered the game ball to his father before the first pitch.

Koby Clemens has missed most of the season after breaking a finger during a slide. The Rocket said his son nudged him to get back into game shape for a 23rd major league season, although Koby wasn't too pushy about which team his dad should choose.

Clemens said pitching alongside his son was among the highlights of his illustrious career.

"It's definitely right there," he said. "There's nothing like it."

Clemens came out of retirement again and re-signed with the Astros last Wednesday, agreeing to a $22 million contract to pitch for the rest of 2006.

The number 22 or some variation of it seemed to be everywhere Tuesday night. Not only did Clemens and Drennen both wear it, but also it was written on the base path behind second base, there was an announced attendance of 9,222 and Clemens threw 22 pitches in the first inning.

Clemens has 341 wins and is second to Nolan Ryan on the career strikeout list with 4,502.

Clemens has won seven Cy Young Awards -- most recently for Houston in 2004. He also was the 1986 AL MVP with Boston, and last year he led the major leagues with a 1.87 ERA.