09/26/12 11:47 PM ET
Clemens chats about Red Sox past, his future
By Jason Mastrodonato / Special to MLB.com
Clemens, who last pitched in the Majors as a member of the Yankees in 2007, spent 13 seasons with the Red Sox, winning at least 17 games in seven straight years.
And while he probably won't be pitching again soon -- although he didn't rule it out -- just being on the Fenway grass felt good.
"I can't control the smattering of other things, but every time I'm in this town, they've been nothing but great and thankful for the effort and what I tried to do when I was here," Clemens said of the fans. "I know how I went about my work and what I tried to do here. We came close so many times. I made a lot of great memories."
And while he looked much different this time -- with a broad chest and booming shoulders that made his last check-in with the Majors, when he was listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, seem silly -- Clemens had to answer the million-dollar question: Will he pitch again?
"I had a lot of ice the last time I pitched," he said. "It seems to get worse and worse each time. We were just having fun with it."
Clemens didn't say if he's still trying to mount a comeback, but he did discuss his time with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent Atlantic League as a learning experience.
Pitching at 50, especially with the painful recovery afterward, isn't as easy as it used to be.
Said Clemens: "Somebody like [Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman calls and you're sitting on your couch watching them get swept saying, 'I need you in our clubhouse as much as I need you in our fifth hole, will you get ready to play?' I said, 'This is going to take a lot of time.'
"A couple of my buddies who have now tried it understand what I went through. It's three times the work you have to do when you lay off for a couple of months, you're watching and you try and make these comebacks.
"They're difficult and they're stressful, because you always know you're not going to be what you were five years ago. You want to get as close as you can and look good doing it."
Clemens was clocked throwing 88 mph earlier this month, though he said he's a power pitcher, not a power thrower, and that he could still pitch effectively without a speedy heater.
But Clemens seemed to perk up most on Wednesday night when talking like a coach and breaking down a pair of Red Sox pitchers in Jon Lester and Andrew Bailey.
Bailey, who missed the majority of the 2012 season after undergoing thumb surgery in the spring, has collected six saves for Boston this season as he anticipates providing a much more involved role as the closer next year.
"I talked to Andrew about being able to repeat what he's able to do," Clemens said. "And to go look at video if he's able to visualize and look at that and put that in play the way he finished off the game the other night -- a ball on the outside half, a great pitcher's pitch. If he can repeat that, he's a professional, he can do that."
Lester, who took the loss in a 4-2 defeat to the Rays Wednesday, has a 4.94 ERA this season, and Clemens thinks the lefty's struggles have been mostly mental.
"He's a guy that can stand on the mound and use his height and strength and work downhill," Clemens said. "The sky is the limit for him. I think you guys know, I hope you guys know, that it has a lot [to do] about confidence. If he can get hot, he should be able to rip off quite a few games and get right back to being a 20-game winner.
"You're going to surround him with great guys and like you said, you got a young closer coming on that's still finding his way. So [the Red Sox] will put some pieces together. You're always competitive in this area. I don't worry about him too much."
Clemens said he is looking forward to the Astros being in the American League next year, and the way he talked about the new alignment, it was almost as if he was gearing up to play for his hometown team.
But he still remembers Boston. The memories are good ones. Even if some in this town would rather forget them.
"This is where I made my mark," he said. "This will always have a special place in my heart."
Jason Mastrodonato is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.