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.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.
Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.
It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.