UPDATE: Per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Clemens told ESPN after his outing that he “would listen” if Astros owner Jim Crane calls, but doesn’t think he’s close to pitching in an MLB game.
10:01 PM: With his son Koby behind the plate, Roger Clemens tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings tonight against the Long Island Ducks in his second start with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters.
Clemens gave up just two hits — both singles — while striking out one and walking none. The 50-year-old right-hander retired the first two hitters he faced in the fifth before hugging his son and leaving to a standing ovation at Constellation Field. Jim Bowden of ESPN.com notes that he sat mostly in the 86-88 mph range with his fastball while Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports that he threw 33 out of 54 pitches for strikes.
Clemens tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his first start with the Skeeters on August 25 and topped out at 88 mph. While the Astros were expected to have a scout in attendance for tonight’s outing, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner said earlier this week that he’s “just having fun” and doesn’t expect to pitch in the big leagues this year.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.
Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.
The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.
If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.