KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Roger Clemens said little publicly in the immediate aftermath of the Hall of Fame vote.
More than a month later, he’s willing to share his thoughts – but the 354-game winner is not about to start a lobbying campaign.
“I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” Clemens said. “If those guys feel I deserve to be there, then I deserve to be there. If they feel I don’t, then that’s OK, too.”
Clemens was at spring training Monday as a special instructor for the Houston Astros, and he spoke for a bit with the pitchers about his mental approach to the game. Later, he watched some of the Astros throw live batting practice.
The 50-year-old seemed relaxed after a turbulent year. Clemens was acquitted last year on charges that he obstructed and lied to Congress in denying he used performance-enhancing drugs to extend his career. Last month, Clemens, Barry Bonds and everyone else on the ballot fell short of the necessary votes to make the Hall of Fame. Superlative stats weren’t enough to offset suspicions of PED use.
“I’ve had a great time when I’ve gone to Cooperstown,” Clemens said. “I know a lot of people that work over there, too. If you’re around my groups of people – and the same thing when I go to the cities I’ve played in – the people have been nothing but great down on the streets to me.”
The rebuilding Astros are moving to the American League this year after losing 213 games in two seasons. Clemens said if he were a player, he’d be excited because of all the job openings available on the roster.
He met with pitchers for about a half-hour before Monday’s workout.
“I tried to fire them up and tell them that we’re not just a newcomer to the league,” Clemens said. “Hopefully we got the attention of a few of them.”
New manager Bo Porter was happy to have Clemens around.
“He had a good powwow with all the pitchers and catchers this morning,” Porter said. “Like I told those guys, when you’re able to receive that type of tutelage and advice from someone who’s been through the battles, understands what it takes, he’s done it at a high level, it’s an asset.”
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who made 16 starts for the Astros as a rookie last year, is among many Houston pitchers still trying to prove himself. He said he’d met Clemens before when playing in the minor leagues with Clemens’ son.
“A 350-game winner? I’m all ears,” Keuchel said. “He talked about knowing your own game and what you’re capable of doing in the game, and you don’t need a pitching coach to come out. You’re a big leaguer for a reason. You’re there because you can throw the ball where you want to, and just because you make a bad pitch doesn’t mean you can’t make an adjustment the next pitch.”
Clemens said spring training has changed a lot since he was beginning his big league career. Players now arrive a bit more ready to push themselves.
“I watched some of the guys turning the ball loose yesterday, and I worry that they’re coming out of the gate to impress people pretty hard, and you can get tendinitis pretty easy,” he said. “But I know I did that when I was 21.”
Another difference Clemens noticed? It seems like fewer players are smokers now.
That led to a brief discussion between Clemens and reporters about fitness and nutrition in baseball — and a comment from Clemens that at least tangentially referenced the sport’s drug testing program.
“You guys can go to GNC and take stuff, and we can’t — to keep your health or muscle, or whatever you want to do. You’ve just got to be careful with it, because they can change the ingredients in it. You have to be aware of it,” Clemens said. “I know you guys write about it, but there’s a scroll from here to the field over there of names you can’t even spell, that we can’t — you’ve just got to be careful.”
Notes: Porter said RHP Bud Norris will be away from camp for a bit following the death of his grandmother. He’s expected to leave Tuesday and be back Thursday. Norris is slated to pitch Sunday against the New York Mets.