DUNEDIN, Fla. -- On Matt Clement's second pitch of the day, first baseman Randy Ruiz speared Curtis Granderson's hot shot. Clement sprinted to first, barely beating the runner and catching Ruiz's off-target throw.
"OK. Welcome back," Clement said. "Get your blood and adrenaline going."Absent from the major leagues since 2006, the former All-Star pitched two innings Friday for Toronto in the Blue Jays' 6-4 spring-training victory over the Detroit Tigers."So to start today in this kind of atmosphere, it has been awhile, and it felt good to do it," the 34-year-old right-hander said. "I think the most positive thing: my arm felt good. Part of this process of coming back is when you know your arm feels good and you can finally get to pitching like you want to pitch."Clement signed a $25.5 million, three-year contract with Boston after the 2004 season, went 13-6 the following year but was 5-5 in 12 starts in 2006, when his season was cut short by a shoulder injury that required surgery.He missed 2007, then was limited to minor league appearances last season after signing a $1.5 million, one-year deal with St. Louis. Toronto gave him a minor league contract in December."One of the biggest problems I had last year was, No. 1, being able to throw my slider correctly and, No. 2, if any pitch irritated my arm last year, it was my slider," he said. "I think I threw five or six quality sliders, and they felt and looked like they used to. It was a pitch I pretty much went without last year, when I was trying to come back."Clement and fellow left-hander Mike Maroth, also coming back from shoulder surgery that kept him out of the majors last year, are among the candidates for the two available spots in the Blue Jays rotation behind right-handers Roy Halladay and Jesse Litsch, and left-hander David Purcey. Also in the mix are Casey Janssen and Scott Richmond and Brett Cecil.Before the first inning ended, Clement had to face Gary Sheffield, who waved his bat menacingly and walked on four pitches."I've been facing him since he was a Dodger and I was a Padre, and he's getting his money's worth every time he goes up to the plate," Clement said, remembering back a decade ago. "Coming so soon after the Granderson at-bat, it was almost like, OK, welcome back to the reality of pitching in a game like this, where all the hitters are good and all the hitters are going to be a battle."
Toronto 3B Scott Rolen was supposed to play Saturday and Sunday but asked manager Cito Gaston to start him Friday. Rolen wanted to escape weekend postgame duty. "To be quiet honest, we had a barbecue after the game, at which players would have to serve and sign autographs. My daughter was coming to the game." Gaston agreed, and Rolen gained time with his daughter Saturday. ... Detroit's defense bailed out Armando Galarraga in the first inning. With two on and no outs, SS Cale Iorg leaped, deflected Alex Rios' liner and caught the ball as he fell backward. Following Adam Lind's sacrifice fly, Granderson made a diving catch of Rod Barajas' curving liner to right-center field. Kevin Millar had an RBI double in the third and scored on Barajas single. ... Detroit LHP Dontrelle Willis was lifted after giving up a single and a walk and hitting a batter at the start of Toronto's two-run fourth. Don Kelly homered and Alex Avila had a two-run single for the Tigers in the seventh.