Former Roger Clemens Teammate Andy Pettitte Appears At His Perjury Trial

Andy Pettitte testifies that Clemens spoke of his drug use

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UPDATE:  Well, it was nice while it lasted, but Pettitte’s testimony just became pretty useless.

9:12 AM: There were no surprises in Andy Pettitte’s testimony at the Roger Clemens trial yesterday. Now it’s just a matter of whether the jury believes the 1999 Roger Clemens or the 2005 Roger Clemens to whom Pettitte spoke:

Without emotion, as if he were facing a particularly tough batter, Pettitte said that Clemens admitted to him in 1999 or 2000 that he had used human growth hormone, which is now banned by baseball.

“Roger had mentioned to me that he had taken H.G.H. and that it could help with recovery,” Pettitte said. “You know, that’s all I really remember about the conversation.”

And, Pettitte said without flinching, that Clemens accused him in 2005 of remembering that conversation inaccurately. Clemens said it was his wife, not him, who had used H.G.H.

“Obviously, I was a little flustered because I thought that he had told me he did,” Pettitte said. “My reaction after that was, well, no good asking him or talking to him about this now, and I just walked out, end of the conversation.” …

That’s basically the crux of it all. That and a little bit of Pettitte’s own history with HGH and whether the jury will assume that, due to their closeness and the company they kept, they were both doing the same stuff.

It’s easy to convince yourself, based on what we all know what was going on in 2005, that Clemens changed his story to Pettitte because he was aware — based on the famous Rafael Palmiero/Mark McGwire hearings — that others would be called on to talk about drug use and he wanted to start laying the groundwork for denials.  It’s just as easy to say “man, how dumb would Clemens be to change his story in 2005 when, if he was really using, others would be in a position to say so.” Now, I think Clemens is dumb, actually, but the jury isn’t gonna get to hear about a lot of that stuff, so it may not matter here.

Which is another way to say that it’s hard to say what the jury will take away from Pettitte’s testimony.  And makes me continue to believe that the only thing that matters in this case is what Brian McNamee says, how he says it and what the jury thinks of it.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.