By Orel Hershiser, ESPN
When Roger Clemens starts Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) at home against the Twins, you will see the real deal. He has set the bar very high for himself, and the people in the organization have set the bar high, too. He has put a lot of pressure on himself to pitch well. One of the reasons for his delay in coming back was so he could meet the standards he set for himself. Clemens' first game back will be very exciting, but don't expect that to hinder his performance. He has been in this game long enough and knows how to channel his emotions.
His biggest worry right now is hoping his body will hold up because that's what you lose at his age. The height of anyone's career is the intersection of experience and ability at its prime. When you have the experience, the only worry is the body, particularly the arm. He has done everything he can to get his 43-year-old body ready; he knows his mind is ready.
You're going to see Clemens near the top of his game, but there is the possibility you also could see a dead arm or low period after three or four starts. We're going to see him age; he is human and can't go on forever, after all.
Three things happen when you get older: (1) the loss of ability; (2) the inability to recover in four days; and (3) when you do recover, the wear and tear starts to come quicker the next time out. It's like taking water out of the bathtub and all of sudden you've taken too much out and it's dry. At some point, age takes all the water out of the tub -- and that's the biggest worry.
Clemens knows he has enough in his tank to go five innings right now, but does he have enough to make it to the end of the season? If he can manage six or seven innings, that's great. We're looking at about 20 starts for him if the Astros make the playoffs. Essentially, he could pitch 120 innings this season -- about half his normal workload.
Clemens knows he does not have to go out there and be completely intense the entire time. Older pitchers learn that they need to pace themselves. Instead of throwing a hard cutter or hard sinker on every pitch, you can essentially go out there and throw a BP-like pitch to conserve some energy and hope for an out. That's what experience gets you, and Clemens knows this.
WEDNESDAY'S NEWS AND NOTES
• Phillies LHP Randy Wolf allowed six runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings in a
rehab start at Double-A Reading. Wolf had elbow surgery July 1.
• Cubs 1B Derrek Lee (broken right wrist) is getting closer to
a return. Asked whether he will be able to play this weekend when the Cubs visit Minnesota, he said, "I don't know. It will be soon, but I'm not going to put a date on it."
Manager Dusty Baker is leaning toward sending Lee on a brief
minor league rehab assignment.
Ichiro Suzuki extended his hitting streak to 20 games Wednesday with a seventh-inning single at Dodger Stadium. Ichiro has four hitting streaks of at least 20 games since joining the Mariners, tying Nomar Garciaparra for the most among active players. No other current major leaguer has more than two single-season hitting streaks of that length in his career.