Astros were impressed by Roger Clemens’ start Saturday night in independent ball

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Astros owner Jim Crane told the FOX affiliate in Houston late last week that he would be “open” to discussing a contract with Roger Clemens if the veteran right-hander proved capable of getting outs.

Which is why it should come as no surprise that the Astros were watching closely as Clemens tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday night for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.

Here is Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, discussing the brief but effective outing Sunday in a chat with Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle:

“He looked good,” said Luhnow. “He certainly can compete at that independent ball level. We’ll see how he feels after doing that yesterday, but he certainly is impressive given the fact that he hasn’t pitched in so many years and with his age. I don’t know what he intends to do. I think a lot of that will have to do with how he feels after (Saturday). Recovery time is probably a little different for somebody who hasn’t pitched in so long.”

Clemens hasn’t appeared in a major league game since the 2007 season. He told reporters after his start Saturday in southeast Texas that he will ice up for a few days before deciding what he’d like to do next.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.