Roger Clemens goes on trial this week

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The opening statements and all of the pomp and circumstance will begin Wednesday, but the Roger Clemens perjury trial started Tuesday with evidentiary motions and the like.  Clemens is supposed to be at the courthouse in Washington, D.C. as well, so we’ll get our de riguer look at him wearing some bad suit, flanked by his lawyers and walking into the building. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

We’ve talked a lot about the Clemens trial recently, and given our recent experience with Barry Bonds, we all have a good idea about how this stuff is gonna work, so I’ll spare you a detailed preview. But here’s the short version:

  • Clemens is accused of lying to Congress when he said he never took performance enhancing drugs;
  • His statements to that effect were far more stark and certain than those Barry Bonds made at his grand jury testimony;
  • Unlike Bonds, there are witnesses who will come forward to say that Clemens is flat lying (his former trainer, Brian McNamee) or at least suggest that his story is implausible, even if they don’t have direct knowledge of Clemens’ drug use itself (Andy Pettitte); and
  • Unlike the Bonds case, where no one disputed Bonds’ actual use of PEDs as opposed to his knowing use, forensic evidence that directly links Clemens to PEDs will be highly relevant here, particularly those syringes that Brian McNamee saved and handed over to the feds, and which allegedly contain some Clemens DNA (and which the defense, of course, will attack as corrupted and/or phony).

Over at the Daily News, Nathaniel Vinton has his own preview, focusing on one of the other major differences between the Bonds case and the Clemens case: the lead investigator. Vinton introduces us to FBI agent John Longmire, who led the investigation into Clemens. Unlike Bonds investigator Jeff Novitzky, Longmire does not seem like someone who has sought out media attention and does not see PED cases as his ticket to fame.

My takeaway on that is that: while we can still say that PED prosecutions are a questionable use of government resources, this case is a different beast than the Bonds case. No one made it a career priority to get Roger Clemens.  He did most of this to himself and, at some point, the government simply can’t ignore it when it is being poked as much as Roger Clemens and his legal team poked it.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.