Almost five years after he threw his last big league pitch, 50-year-old Roger Clemens is donning a pro baseball uniform again.
The independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters announced that they have signed Clemens to a contract. Clemens will make his Sugar Land debut on Saturday, Aug. 25.
Clemens will be joining a Skeeters rotation that already includes former big leaguers Scott Kazmir and Tim Redding, as well as former big league outfielder now turned pitcher Jason Lane. Clemens’ new manager will be Gary Gaetti, a long-time contemporary of Clemens who is only four years older than his new starting pitcher.
“Gary Gaetti, he’s known Roger a long time,” Skeeters director of baseball operations Michael Kirk said. “They are very friendly. They had exchanged text messages for months. Then about a month and half ago, it started to get more serious. Two or three weeks ago, (Clemens’ agent) Randy Hendricks got in the mix, then I started thinking this isn’t just two friends talking. We started ramping up a little bit. He threw for us today and we liked what we saw.”
At the workout, Kirk said Clemens was sitting at 87-88 mph and also showcased a biting slider and a nasty splitter.
Since the news broke, Kirk said fans have been flooding the Skeeters’ phone lines with calls to get tickets, but the team has bad news for them—the game was already sold out before news of Clemens’ signing broke.
Clemens was acquitted in June of charges that he lied to Congress when he testified that he did not use performance-enhancing drugs. The accusations of Clemens and steroid use will likely become an issue again this December when Clemens will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. Playing in an independent league will not change his eligibility—Rickey Henderson played two seasons in independent baseball after his big league career ended, but that did not alter the timetable of when he joined the ballot.
Most players playing in the Atlantic League are hoping to sign on with an affiliated club at some point, Kirk said he did not have any insight into whether Clemens hopes to parlay his time in Sugar Land into a shot at getting back to the majors. For that matter, Clemens’ second Skeeters’ start has not yet been scheduled.
“We’ll take it one game at a time,” Kirk said. “We’re going to have fun, sit back and watch it happen.”