Clemens 'fine' after pitching vs. Giants

Clemens 'feels fine' after exhibition vs. Giants

PHOENIX -- It's safe to say that Roger Clemens wouldn't have gone to Spring Training this year if it hadn't been for the mere fact that Team USA and the inaugural World Baseball Classic beckoned.

"That's a fair assessment," said the future Hall of Famer, who is a free agent and hasn't decided if he's going to play his 23rd season.

But while here, Clemens is making the most of it. He looked like the Rocket of old, huffing and puffing through the first two innings of Team USA's 12-7 tune up victory over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday at Scottsdale Stadium. In the game, Chipper Jones and Chase Utley each hit two-run homers and the Philadelphia Phillies second baseman went 5-for-5 and played all 10 innings.

Clemens threw 29 pitches, 18 of them strikes. He allowed Steve Finley's first-inning double into the right-field corner, worked three batters to a full count and whiffed three. After retiring six of the seven batters he faced, as promised, he went down to the bullpen and tossed a little more.

He then proclaimed himself ready for his start in Game 3 of the first round on Friday against South Africa at Scottsdale Stadium. The U.S. opens pool play on Tuesday against Mexico at Chase Field in a 4 p.m. ET start.

"I feel fine," the 43-year-old right-hander said. "I'm ready to get back out there. It was fun finally getting the guys together in a baseball atmosphere. I think in the first inning, a couple of things felt funny as far as my body is concerned. Just finding some new, old muscles, if that makes any sense. It's all about baseball. It's nice to look around and see the kind of players we have behind me."

Clemens actually set down the first two batters he faced on four pitches. Ray Durham and Jose Vizcaino, who played with Clemens last season on the National League champion Houston Astros, grounded out to first. Finley doubled and Mark Sweeney whiffed on a 3-2 pitch.

In the second inning, Mike Matheny grounded to third before Abraham Nunez and Fred Lewis struck out. Nunez whiffed on a called third strike that appeared to be a tad high inside. Nunez, meet a pitcher with 341 career wins and 4,502 strikeouts.

For another former Clemens teammate, shortstop Derek Jeter, it seemed like business as usual.

"It was like old times, aside from the color of the uniform," said Jeter, who played with Clemens on the 1999 and 2000 World Series-winning New York Yankees. "It seems like he never left. It was very familiar."

The color of the uniform was the reason Clemens came back at all this spring.

"This is everything I expected it to be," Clemens said about the tournament, the first international baseball event to include Major League players. "Everything has come together. Just seeing all the guys getting ready to go. Guys are still in Spring Training mode, but I sense for us this is going to be a lot more meaningful. It will be a little more serious as we go."

When last he pitched, Clemens was tossing for the Astros against the Chicago White Sox in Game 1 of the World Series. He came out after an inning when he tore a hamstring.

Even though his body betrayed him, Clemens led the Major Leagues with a 1.87 ERA last season. Late-season back problems led to the leg injury. The passing of his mother made him also question whether he had the inner fortitude to come back for another season.

Even now, he told Team USA manager Buck Martinez that his focus is solely on the tournament.

"I'm here for this," Clemens said. "What I do, good or bad, in this event is not going to affect if I decide to play this year."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.