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Clemens comeback could help time heal some wounds

If starter pitches for Astros, he would delay Hall consideration/rejection for 5 more seasons

Phil Rogers

On Baseball

4:13 PM CDT, August 25, 2012

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Seeing Roger Clemens on the verge of becoming a 50-year-old big league starter makes me feel bad for Jamie Moyer.

While not blessed with Clemens' powerful build or pitching repertoire, Moyer got the absolute most out of his career — and he didn't turn up in the Mitchell report, testify before Congress or defend himself from allegations he lied to Congress.

Moyer just kept taking the ball whenever someone would give it to him.

His comeback from Tommy John surgery at 49 was one of the best stories of the spring, and when he became the oldest pitcher to win a game — with victories over the Padres and Diamondbacks in April and May — it was easy to imagine him pitching at 50, which also happened to be the number on his jersey. But the magic ran out, and he was swept aside after going 2-5 with a 5.70 ERA for the Rockies.

Moyer still didn't stop, signing minor league contracts with the Orioles and Blue Jays. He held his own in Triple A (2-2, 4.33 in five starts) but hasn't pitched since the Jays released him after a July 3 start.

It would feel better to me if it was Moyer, not the Rocket, who was set to pitch Saturday night for the Atlantic League's Sugar Land Skeeters. But Moyer doesn't exactly have the sizzle of Clemens in Texas, not to mention the ear of Astros owner Jim Crane.

Barring an injury or a surprisingly ugly performance, Clemens is going to pitch for the Astros next month.

There's little to lose for either the disgraced legend or baseball's least successful franchise. You can argue that they need each other, as the Astros are 27th in the majors in attendance and a September afterthought in football country while Clemens isn't looking forward to Hall of Fame voters rejecting him this winter.

While Clemens was acquitted of lying to Congress, he hardly has gotten his good name back after Major League Baseball's Mitchell report identified him as a heavy-duty steroid user. Outside of possibly passing a series of lie-detector exams on national television, I'm not sure how he ever could prove his innocence.

Clemens would be smart to get back on the field. That would delay his Hall of Fame consideration for at least five years — six if he somehow pitched well enough to earn a uniform for 2013 — and over time there may be some leniency shown toward steroid cheats.

Perhaps the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America will request a clarification by the Hall on the outdated guidelines for voting, including the stipulation that character and integrity be weighed alongside play on the field. Maybe the Hall's board of directors will empower a committee of historians to deal with the issue. With Hall voting, you never really know.

Crane says he's open to Clemens joining his team.

"The only thing we don't want to do is make it a publicity stunt," Crane told Fox 26 reporter Mark Berman. "If we did it, I want to turn it into a positive, which would be Roger's doing it for the good of baseball.

"The extra proceeds on the game might go to the (Astros') community charity deal to build (baseball) fields, do something positive out of it.I think the fans might like it. … I don't see anything negative about that, but the Astros wouldn't want to do it for the money, the extra gate or anything like that."

Clemens is friendly with Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco. He managed Koby Clemens with Triple-A Oklahoma City, and Clemens regularly was around the team, throwing batting practice at times.

The stars have aligned for something we never thought we would see again — Clemens pitching in the big leagues. I hope he doesn't make Moyer, the guy who did everything right, look bad.

Following the Rays: When you have pitching, you always have a chance. The Rays are thriving with that philosophy.

They entered the weekend with a 19-6 mark since July 28, which pushed them into the American League wild-card lead. Their pitching staff had a 1.70 ERA in that stretch, lowering the season mark to an AL-best 3.24. They're on pace to set an AL record in strikeouts, breaking the Yankees' mark of 2001.

They Rays' starting rotation is entirely homegrown and provides a glimpse at how Cubs President Theo Epstein hopes to build his pitching staff. Andrew Friedman inherited only one guy who has remained in the rotation (James Shields), with David Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb coming in the draft from 2005-07.

Price, a standout at Vanderbilt, was the first overall pick in '07, but Moore, Hellickson and Cobb were drafted out of high school. In those three drafts, the Rays used 17 of 31 picks in the first 10 rounds on pitchers, with an almost even split (9-8) between college and high school pitchers. Moore, Hellickson and Cobb averaged 101 starts and 553 innings in the minors.

Missing man formation: Like the Giants with Melky Cabrera, the A's are going to have a hard time replacing the suspended Bartolo Colon. It helps that they just got lefty Brett Anderson back from Tommy John surgery, but Colon was a leader for the young pitching staff.

"He's the veteran who has been holding those young pitchers together,'' Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "But they'll get over it. Those guys right now, they're oblivious to everything.''

Perhaps because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs, Colon was showing no signs of wear. He was 0-4 with a 5.37 ERA in August and September for the 2011 Yankees but 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in August this year.

The suspension devastated his teammates.

"I was brought up to never cheat the game," right fielder Josh Reddick said. "I don't want to be that guy at the end of his career who has the asterisk sitting beside his name in all his stats. I want to know deep down inside that I've earned it within myself and not with any kind of help."

Said pitcher Brandon McCarthy: "It's not nobodies who are getting busted. It's people who are bigger in the game. It seems like a stupid option, but I guess some people are still willing to do it."

Home-field disadvantage: The Red Sox are one of only three AL teams with losing records at home. After beating the Royals on Friday night, they're 30-37 at Fenway Park. They have had only nine losing records at Fenway since 1934, the most recent in 1997.

"It's a great place to play,'' shortstop Mike Aviles said. "It's frustrating for us because we want to play well in general but obviously at home. You want to reward the fans."

Clay Buchholz said his teammates are pressing in home games as they try to stop fans from booing.

"A lot of guys are going up to the plate and thinking they have to do something right now,'' Buchholz told the Boston Globe. "When you're losing, that's just the way it goes. … It's different for me, being here the last four or five years and always winning (at home). It's a little bit different for everybody.''

The last word: "He's one of those guys who is pretty quiet, but he always walks around like maybe he knows something you don't.'' — Chipper Jones, comparing the Braves' Kris Medlen to Greg Maddux.

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Twitter @ChiTribRogers