Clemens to be more involved with Astros in 2013
Former pitcher will be instructor during spring, remain involved during season
HOUSTON -- Seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens will be in uniform as an instructor for the Astros at Spring Training next month.
Clemens, who has a personal services contract with the Astros, met for five hours Monday morning at Minute Maid Park with general manager Jeff Luhnow, pitching coach Doug Brocail, roving pitching instructor Craig Bjornson, director of player development Quinton McCracken and the amateur scouts to hammer out a role with the team.
The Rocket will be taking on his most visible non-playing assignment since his retirement, working with Astros pitchers during Spring Training and the regular season. The club may even call on him to help scout with the First-Year Player Draft, in which the Astros have the No. 1 overall pick for the second consecutive year.
"We talked about pitching in the Minor Leagues, scouting pitching, pitching in the college ranks and high school ranks and teaching pitching, so it was a good working day," Luhnow said.
Luhnow and Clemens also mapped out a plan for Spring Training that will see Clemens make at least a couple of trips to Kissimmee, Fla., beginning in late February for a Minor League minicamp that will see the club's elite Minor League players participate. He'll also work with the Major League club at that time and again later in camp.
"We feel pretty good about Roger's level of involvement this year," Luhnow said. "I think he's going to be a lot more involved than he was last year, and we'd welcome it on our side to have someone like him around."
Astros owner Jim Crane said last summer he wanted to ease Clemens back into a role with the club, so Monday's meeting was just another step in the process.
Clemens was a frequent sight around the back fields at Osceola County Stadium following his retirement in 2007, especially since his oldest son, Koby, played in the Astros' system from 2005-11. He's kept a lower profile in recent years, but plans to be hands-on this year.
"At this point, the plan is to make two trips to Kissimmee to work with our pitchers, and then he'll be available and around during several of the homestands this year," Luhnow said. "If we feel like we need to send him on assignment to one of our Minor League affiliates or see a pitcher for the Draft, he's open to doing that. We'll play it be ear, but we expect we'll see Roger in Kissimmee sometime before the end of February."
Clemens, 50, is one of the greatest pitchers of all time, having won 354 games in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros. He pitched for his hometown Astros from 2004-06 and was signed to a 10-year personal services deal by then-owner Drayton McLane that kicked in when he retired.
Last appearing in a Major League game for the Yankees in 2007, Clemens pitched briefly last season for the independent Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters. There was speculation Clemens was eyeing a comeback to the Major Leagues, but his motive was pitching one game with his son, Koby, as the catcher.
Luhnow said having an asset like Clemens will be huge for a young team with several up-and-coming arms.
"It's got a tremendous amount of value, because not only does he understand where they're coming from, he was an amateur player, he was a young professional and he had a long, storied career," Luhnow said. "But he has a lot of anecdotes from throughout his career about different people that taught him different things and the successes and failures he had, and I think it really makes it real when you hear these stories.
"A lot of these kids probably watched him on TV when they were youngsters, so to hear it straight from his mouth will have a huge impact on them. Today was a good day because we felt we were very much aligned in terms of our vision and in terms of how Doug teaches it and Roger teaches it. It's great Doug is welcoming Roger with open arms."
Clemens was on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year and received only 37.6 percent of the vote. Many voters were hesitant to vote for Clemens, who played under the cloud of suspicion of PED use for at least a portion of his career, though he has steadfastly denied these claims.