Is Roger Clemens returning to the major leagues?

Is Roger Clemens returning to the major leagues?

From Comcast SportsNet
SUGAR LAND, Texas (AP) -- Hours after Roger Clemens agreed to join the Sugar Land Skeeters, he was back on the field playing in an over-50 softball league. And the ultra-competitive Clemens, now a half-century old, was quick to point out just how well he did against that group of geezers. "I hit two homers, by the way," he said. Things will be a bit tougher on Saturday when he is scheduled to start for the independent Atlantic League team at home against Bridgeport. The right-hander agreed to play for the team on Monday and was introduced on Tuesday. Whether this all leads to Clemens pitching in the major leagues -- the seven-time Cy Young Award winner played that down, conceding he's nowhere near big league pitching shape. "I'm 50 years old. We're just going to go out and have fun with this and make it fun for the fans," said Clemens, who has a touch of gray stubble on his chin but still sports a shock of blond highlights in his hair. Clemens didn't understand all the rules of his old-man softball league at first. When he hit his first home run and dashed to first base, his teammates told him to stop. He thought it was because home runs weren't allowed. It turned out that the over-50 set doesn't see the need to run all of the bases on a homer. "I really play in that league for the exercise and the fun," he said. He laughed off questions about playing professionally at an age when he qualifies for an AARP card. "I hope nothing breaks and I hope I don't pull anything," a still fit-looking Clemens said. Some believe his return to the minor leagues is the first step to another comeback in the major leagues, where he last pitched for the New York Yankees in 2007 at age 45. Clemens is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going to voters late this year. If he plays in a major league game this year, his Hall consideration would be pushed back five years. He isn't sure how he'll be perceived by voters when his name appears on the ballot. "Sure, the Hall of Fame is great, I've told people that. But it's not going to change my life either way," he said. "But if there's something there that somebody feels like they have a grudge or want to hold something against you, I can't control that one bit." Clemens said thinking about a big league comeback is premature. He dismissed the theory that the minor league appearance was a step on the path to a big league return. "I've been to the major leagues and back a couple of times," he said. "I've retired and unretired, so I wouldn't consider thinking that far ahead. I'm just going to try to get through Saturday. I think I can compete a little bit." A return at his age wouldn't be all that outlandish, considering that Jamie Moyer returned from elbow ligament replacement surgery to start for the Colorado Rockies this season. Clemens chuckled when asked about Moyer. "People are trying to ingrain that in my mind that 50 is now the new 40," he said. "But I'm not buying it because I'm still having to pack myself in a lot of ice." He says he talks to new Houston Astros owner Jim Crane often but that he has not talked about pitching for the Astros and that he doesn't see that happening. He isn't committing to playing more than one game for the Skeeters, who play in a Houston suburb, saying he wants to see how Saturday goes first. Clemens was accused by former personal trainer Brian McNamee in the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball of using steroids and HGH, allegations Clemens denied before Congress. The Justice Department began an investigation concerning whether Clemens had lied under oath, and in 2010 a grand jury indicted him on two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing Congress. He was acquitted of all the charges on June 19 after a 10-week trial and has largely stayed out of the public spotlight until now. He's glad to be talking about baseball again instead of that difficult chapter in his life. "Everybody has their own opinion and they dwell on that so much," he said. "In between all of that, handling that business up there and doing what was right for me and my family and taking that head on, I was still doing the work that I've always done. So it wasn't gloomy or depressing." Clemens had two great seasons with the Astros after he turned 40, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 2004 to win his record seventh Cy Young Award. He was 13-8 with a career-low 1.87 ERA in 2005. Tal Smith, a longtime former Astros executive who is now a special advisor to the Skeeters, is one person who wouldn't be surprised if Clemens made a comeback in the majors. "Knowing Roger and how competitive he is and what great shape he is in, and the fact that Jamie Moyer pitched close to 50 and Nolan Ryan pitched well into his late 40s, if anybody can do it, Roger Clemens can do it," he said. Clemens earned about 160 million and won 354 games in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros. His 4,672 strikeouts are third-most and he was named to 11 All-Star games. Now he will see what he has left for the Skeeters that have a roster which includes former major league pitchers Tim Redding and Scott Kazmir and Jason Lane, a teammate of Clemens' on Houston's 2005 World Series team. Smith believes this is a great opportunity for Clemens and he thinks it could change some opinions as a possible Hall of Fame vote approaches. "I hope this helps," Smith said. "I think voters should remember that he's been acquitted of all charged and that he never tested positive. I hope this story dies down in future years." Clemens and Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti have been talking about this since April. But he received another push toward the field early this summer when he visited Dr. James Andrews in Florida for a checkup. "He said: The MRI looked great. Your shoulder looks like you're 30. You should go pitch -- just kidding,'" Clemens said Andrews told him. It was then that he started thinking he could actually play for the Skeeters. After throwing for the team on Monday, where his fastball was clocked at 87, the multimillionaire got himself a new gig. "We're going to have fun with this and see if I can get through a few innings without Gary having to go to the bullpen, and we'll see where it goes from there," Clemens said. Smith takes issue with those who think this is simply a media stunt. He said that the Skeeters regularly sell out Saturday night games and that there were only 500 tickets available for this Saturday's game before Clemens was signed. "I can understand why he's doing it," Smith said. "He loves baseball. He love the competition. Baseball has been his life and there's no reason he shouldn't try to continue it. If he's successful it just adds to his legend, and if he's not, it was fun."

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Justin Williams calls the Caps' loss 'a reality check'

Justin Williams calls the Caps' loss 'a reality check'

PITTSBURGH—Justin Williams has seen a lot during his 16-year NHL career. But he's not sure he's ever been part of something as wild as Monday’s 8-7 loss to the Penguins.

“It snowballed too quickly for us,” Williams said at PPG Paints Arena. “All around, it was like a 1988 Smythe Division game out there, I think. Not something you want to do.”

Williams scored his 15th goal early in the second period to put the Caps ahead 3-0.

Then things got away from the visitors—quickly.

RELATED: Caps' win streak snapped in crazy loss to Penguins

The final regular season meeting between these bitter rivals sure

About five minutes later, Evgeni Malkin scored the first of his three goals while the teams skated four aside. Braden Holtby said the goal was one he should stop “all the time.” Coach Barry Trotz said it allowed Malkin and Co. to “seize” the game’s momentum.

Either way, Williams didn’t like the Caps’ initial response.

“You certainly know it’s not going to be easy,” Williams said. “We’re up 3-0. Things are going well. Things have gone well lately. But they’re not going to back away. They’re not going to say, ‘Alright, maybe next game.’ They’re going to come at you, and they did.”

The Penguins took 10 of the game’s next 12 shots. Four of them resulted in goals. The capacity crowd, which had been quiet for the first 25 minutes, suddenly came alive.  

Were some bad bounces involved? Sure. Nick Bonino found the puck on the doorstep after it hit him. Bryan Rust’s goal went in off of Ovechkin’s skate.

None of that helped, of course. But Williams still felt like the Caps, who came in riding a nine-game winning streak, could have and should have done more to keep the second period—and ultimately the game—from slipping away.

“Tonight was a good reality check just to say, ‘You know what? You’re not that good,” he said. “You still got to work for things. It’s not going to come easy for you.”

Williams added: “It was a good challenge for us. We came back multiple times. I’m proud of us for that. But, again, crappy game.”

Asked if there was anything positive that the Caps could take from the game, Williams bristled at the suggestion.

“Nothing,” he said. “I want to park it right now. I don’t want to watch it. I don’t want to see it. Obviously, if I have to I will. But just go back to working hard and go back to the drawing board and just hit the reset.”

MORE CAPITALS: NHL explains why the Malkin goal was not overturned

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Caps' win streak snapped in crazy, controversial 8-7 overtime loss to Penguins

Caps' win streak snapped in crazy, controversial 8-7 overtime loss to Penguins

PITTSBURGH—The final regular season meeting between these bitter rivals sure was a memorable one. 

After the Caps and Penguins combined for 14 goals in regulation, Conor Sheary scored the game winner in overtime, lifting Pittsburgh to a wild 8-7 victory at PPG Paints Arena. 

How it happened: The Caps took a quick 3-0 lead on goals Andre Burakovsky, Nicklas Backstrom and Justin Williams, whose goal at 1:17 of the second period meant the visitors had outscored their opponents 15-0 dating to the previous Penguins game on Jan. 11.

It wasn't nearly enough. Because during a wild 11 minute span in the second, the prolific Penguins  scored six of the game’s next eight goals—yes, six of eight, including an Evgeni Malkin hat trick. As a result, the Pens took a 6-5 lead into the final frame. 

The third period was almost as crazy. Sidney Crosby stretched Pittsburgh’s lead to 7-5 early. But the Caps fought back with goals from T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller, whose second tally of the night with 5:22 left to play sent the game to overtime.

Sheary didn’t need much time to decide it. The Pens’ winger dived headfirst into a pileup in the Caps’ crease and somehow managed to get enough of his stick on the puck to push it underneath Philipp Grubauer and off of Matt Niskanen’s skate. After a brief review, officials determined there was no goaltender interference. 

RELATED: Oshie's backhanded goal gets Caps within one

What it means: The Caps’ winning streak came to an end at nine games. But they kept their spot atop the NHL because both Columbus and Minnesota were off. 

Holtby’s night cut short: The reigning Vezina Trophy winner entered as one of the hottest goalies in the NHL, having recorded three shutouts in his previous five starts. Monday, however, was not his night. Trotz made a goalie switch after Holtby allowed a fifth goal on 15 second period shots, including goals by Bryan Rust and Malkin on back-to-back shots. Holtby yielded five goals on 26 shots.

Defense optional: The Caps came in allowing a league-low 1.91 goals against. So, yeah. 

Unsuccessful challenge: After winning a coach’s challenge against the Blackhawks, Trotz tried again to have a goal overturned on grounds of goaltender interference. This time, however, it didn’t work. Officials ruled that Patric Hornqvist did not prevent Grubauer from doing his job on Malkin’s third goal late in the second period.  

Holy O: The Caps have now scored five or more goals in four straight games and seven of the last 10. The seven goals against on Monday came from six different Caps (Burakovsky, Backstrom, Williams, Brett Connolly, Eller and Oshie). 

Getting physical: Alex Ovechkin didn’t score a goal but he dished out a game-high nine hits. The Caps’ captain also notched a pair of assists.

Looking ahead: The Caps will not practice on Tuesday. They’ll return to the ice Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Arlington before departing on the annual Dad’s Trip, which will make stops in St. Louis and Dallas.

MORE CAPITALS: Eller pulls the Caps even at 5