Clemens' final Yankee Stadium start on tap?

Originally Published: September 27, 2003
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The moment will pass without Roger Clemens' four sons witnessing it.

I've touched everything I wanted to hit on. I'm just excited about the opportunity to get back to the postseason one more time before this all comes to a close. I'm at peace with it because I didn't leave anything behind.
Roger Clemens

After 20 seasons, 605 starts, 309 victories and 4,096 strikeouts, Clemens will take the mound today against Baltimore for his final regular-season start. His family, however, will remain in Texas.

"Football's going on," Clemens said Friday. "I'm second fiddle."

Clemens, with 16 victories and 187 strikeouts this season, will try to add to those totals as the Yankees play Baltimore in their second-to-last game of the regular season.

He is guaranteed at least one more start, in Game 3 of the Yankees' first-round series against Minnesota.

Manager Joe Torre announced his playoff rotation Friday, giving the 41-year-old Clemens the start at the Metrodome. That could end up being the last major-league appearance for Clemens, who says he has no regrets about making this season his last.

"I know I can still do it. But I've done it," Clemens said. "I've touched everything I wanted to hit on. I'm just excited about the opportunity to get back to the postseason one more time before this all comes to a close. I'm at peace with it because I didn't leave anything behind."

One of the most dominating power pitchers of his era, the burly right-hander has put together another successful season with a record of 16-9 and a 3.94 ERA with just 55 walks in 205 2/3 innings. Included among his 16 victories was a five-hit shutout against Anaheim on July 30- the 46th of his career.

"I'm certainly glad I had the opportunity to manage him because I never would have known him as a person," said Torre, who was not a fan of Clemens when managing against him.

Five years together, however, has changed Torre's thinking.

"I didn't care for him very much knowing what type of pitcher he was, an intimidator," Torre said. "But you get him over here and you realize why he's still pitching in his 40s -- because he's still a kid. He loves it. ... He's very honest, very sincere and he cares dearly about everybody around him, not just himself.

"You watch him across the field, and it just looks like he's out in a world by himself. But that's not even close to knowing what he's all about," Torre said.

Clemens has mentioned the possibility of pitching for the United States at next summer's Athens Olympics, but a return to the majors seems out of the question for baseball's only six-time Cy Young Award winner.

A nine-time All-Star, Clemens will finish third on the career strikeouts list behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136).

He needs 13 strikeouts Saturday to reach 200 strikeouts for the 12th time. Clemens will go for it in the ballpark that has been his home for the past half-decade following 13 seasons in Boston and two in Toronto.

"Depending on the crowd's reaction and how everything goes down, I'll think about it a little bit before I take the mound. Then after that, I won't think about it at all after I get in the flow of the game," Clemens said.

Clemens won championships with the Yankees in 1999 and 2000, and the ultimate capper to his final season would be to win a third.

The Yankees have a chance to finish the regular season with the best record in baseball, and they'll go into the first round of the playoffs as a huge favorite after going 7-0 this season against the Twins and 13-0 over the last two seasons.

Clemens has a career record of 23-12 against Minnesota, including 11-6 at the Metrodome -- which made Torre all the more comfortable with slotting Clemens for Game 3.

If the Yankees get past the Twins, there will remain a possibility that Clemens can pitch at least once more at Yankee Stadium as the franchise tries to add to its record of 26 championships.

"There's probably five to seven guys at least in here that don't have a World Series ring, maybe more, and we need to get them one," Clemens said. "They came here to win and be known as a champion."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press