Clemens back at work with the Astros
Roger Clemens was back on the fields at Osceola County Stadium on a chilly morning, wearing and orange and blue batting practice cap, a new blue Astros jacket and a pair of blue jeans that had the team’s daily schedule tucked in the back of the waist.
“Our colors have changed and the expectations have changed a little bit,” Clemens said.
Sunday marked Clemens’ first day on the field as a special instructor for the Astros. He’ll spend about four days in Kissimmee this week, and be back and forth between Florida and Houston two more times this spring. It was all result of owner Jim Crane wanting the seven-time Cy Young Award winner to get more involved while he has a personal services contract.
Clemens joined the coaches’ meetings on Sunday morning and then hit the field after speaking with reporters for about 10 minutes. He plans to shadow manager Bo Porter, trying to learn as much as he can about the Astros’ promising young pitchers, which he admits will be harder considering there are no names on the backs of the jerseys.
“It was fun to listen in on the coaches meeting,” he said. “A lot of great coaches are here to help these young kids kind of find their way, take the next step. Hopefully that’s the case.”
Clemens said his message to the players will be simple.
“Right now, you want to get great quality work in, not really quantity,” he said. “I’ve always felt the ability to focus better than the next person is what’s going to help them the most, and have those expectations they can win even though everybody thinks they can’t.
“Some of the excitement will wear off here after a week and games will get underway, and then it’s trying to establish yourself. From what I understand from all the other pitching coaches floating around here is there’s plenty of jobs to be had on the staff, so that’s exciting. I’ve seen most of these guys.
“I know there’s not names on the backs on their jerseys, and that makes it a little more difficult. I’ve seen most of them and have thrown batting practice to some of the everyday players that are here now and doing the same things I’ve always done. I visit with the guys by phone or text and watch them, and that’s what it’s all about.”
When the season starts, Clemens will stay involved. He’s a season-ticket holder so he’ll be around the ballpark often, and the Astros will lean on him heavily when debating which player to take with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft.
“I’ve seen film on guys they’re interested in and it’s always better to be able to eyeball them in person,” he said. “My deal is, I love rooting for the underdog. I’ve always been that way. I won 200 games with my stuff and my ability and [the rest] with my heart and getting it done. I’m excited. I’m a season-ticket holder, so I’m excited just like anybody else is for these guys to get out there.”
Porter has made a great first impression on Clemens.
“Bo has a lot of energy,” he said. “I like his detail. He pays attention to detail, and I like him talking about the running game a lot. For me, as a pitcher, I can just tell them… I don’t know our personnel and the guys that can run, but I imagine we have some guys who can run and get it done.”
Clemens was asked about the recent Hall of Fame vote, saying he wasn’t concerned with not getting elected on his first time on the ballot this year. He said his stint with the Sugar Land Skeeters last fall was simply about getting to play with his son, Koby, and not about making a comeback as so many had speculated.
Still, Clemens said he might get on the mound this spring and throw live batting practice, which would help him stay in shape and perhaps help the batters.
“I really enjoy doing it,” he said. “I try and throw quality BP and it’s fun for the guys. They seem to enjoy it. I can tell when a guy steps in the plate, I can tell him what I see and how I’m going to go about breaking him down as a hitter.”