"He reports tonight that he feels pretty good and that he feels like he can do it," manager Phil Garner said following the Astros' 6-5 comeback win over St. Louis. "That's the main concern."
Had the Astros lost Thursday's game, chances are Clemens would not have been announced as Sunday's starter. But the Astros have the slimmest of chances of making the postseason, should they sweep the Cardinals in this four-game set, and Garner wants his best weapons available while the club is still standing.
"We have to do as well as we can against St. Louis here," Garner said. "Hopefully, we'll be in a position where that game's going to count a whole lot. He'll be in good shape to handle it for us.
"You have to prepare like you're going to try to win out. Thinking about it, you're asking a lot from a big man like him. It's important, from our viewpoint, to put what I think is our best chance to win [out there]. You have to plan for it. He has to plan his workload, and we have to look forward to that."
Clemens has made 11 starts on three days' rest in his career. He's 6-4 with a 4.74 ERA over those 11 starts, allowing 39 earned runs over 74 innings.
On regular rest, which is obviously a much bigger sampling, he has a 3.00 ERA -- over 449 starts.
According to club owner Drayton McLane, Clemens approached him following his start Wednesday and expressed his desire to pitch Sunday.
"He said, 'I would like for Phil and the Astros to consider letting me pitch Sunday,'" McLane said. "He said, 'Let me get a good night's sleep and I'll talk with Phil.'"
Clemens rode off into what was perceived then to be the sunset in superhero fashion Wednesday, shutting out the Reds over six frames en route to his 348th career win. He exited to two standing ovations as the crowd saluted Clemens after what seemed to be his final home start of the season.
Now, it appears that what is sure to be a capacity crowd at Minute Maid Park Sunday night will have a chance to say goodbye one last time.
"I'm not thinking of it in those terms," Garner said. "If it works out that way, then it's a sidebar. The more important thing is we're not going to throw in the towel. We played like we were not going to throw in the towel tonight. We came back and won this ballgame. We're going to plan to keep winning."
"I think this is good for two reasons," Brad Ausmus said. "One, if we're able to somehow win another couple games here against the Cardinals before Sunday, it gives us one of our best pitchers on the mound in the final game of the series. And if it is his last season playing baseball, Houston fans will get to see him one more time."