Clemens throws in bullpen, still eyes June 22 return

Updated: June 9, 2006, 7:58 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens greeted his Houston Astros teammates and threw a light bullpen session at Minute Maid Park on Friday, still aiming for a June 22 return to the majors.

"Just to be back over here at the stadium, it was great to finally see the guys," the seven-time Cy Young winner said. "Right now, for me, it's all happening extremely fast. It's all coming together."

The 43-year-old Clemens rejoined the Astros on May 31, agreeing to a $22 million contract to pitch the rest of the season. He started for Single-A Lexington on Tuesday, throwing 62 pitches and giving up a home run but striking out six in three innings of work.

Clemens will start for Double-A Corpus Christi on Sunday and Triple-A Round Rock next Friday before his first scheduled start for Houston, against the Minnesota Twins in 13 days.

"That's our target date," Clemens said. "We're not going to move off that date unless I have a setback."

Clemens flew from Lexington to Texas on Friday morning and donned a regular Astros uniform for his workout about three hours before Houston hosted Atlanta.

"This is what we call a 'downhill' session," Clemens said. "It's just a repetitive session where you work on mechanics."

Clemens led the major leagues with a 1.87 ERA for the Astros last season, but developed back and hamstring problems in the final weeks and the postseason. He said his body took "30-35 hours" to fully recover from the Lexington start, but said he feels on-target for his scheduled return.

"My arm's going to be fine," said Clemens. "I just need to get through the soreness in these next two starts."

Clemens said he's fully healed from the leg problems that culminated in his exit after two innings in Game 1 of the World Series.

"They feel decent," he said. "That's where the stamina is going to come from. I just need to get those muscles stretched out."

Clemens' nameplate is back above his locker, two down from close friend Andy Pettitte. Clemens chatted with several teammates and manager Phil Garner on the field after he was finished throwing.

His game in Lexington drew more than 9,000 fans. He also got to play with his oldest son, Koby, a third baseman for the team.

"I'll enjoy each step of the way and try to make it fun for the people around me," Clemens said. "As long as my body is keeping up with me, I'll be all right. I won't be too much of a crank."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press