ROGER CLEMENS: I've been impressed by the way we have performed probably ever since the second half of the baseball season, so it's nice to see that the guys, the younger guys are fairly calm, fairly loose, they seem to be having fun and we've got that nice mix of guys like that.
I mean, Lance, he keeps everybody loose and funny the way he is, and I think it spreads, especially to our everyday players for sure, the younger guys and for the most part I think that somebody like Willy and Chris, you know, they are just happy to have the opportunity. Whether it be the regular season or the postseason, and just being out there and taking advantage of the opportunity, they don't seem to be too worried about what's going on, they just hope that when they walk in the clubhouse they see their name in the lineup and I think they get pretty excited about it.
Just a follow-up question as you face the Cardinals tomorrow, you know it's a power-packed lineup; your thoughts about how to approach the game, what you're going to do, how you're going to attack them?
CLEMENS: Well, I'm not going to tell you that at all. (Laughter.)
I just -- Brad and I will do the same thing. It's not all about what's going on with me, it's how Brad and I are going to attack. Of course I'll let him know and everyone else know, once we get to the bullpen, how my body is feeling and I'll make adjustments from there.
Again at my age, it's that way. I know that if I get out there and my arm is feeling alive and I can power pitch I'll do so and if I have to work my way into the first few innings before I get going I'll do that, too. I'll just have to emphasize on location a little bit better.
But throughout the series, throughout the postseason especially, when we look at film or I had a chance just the other day in St. Louis to run upstairs or watch Roy, or when Zeke got in the game, watched their pitches, when you leave a ball in the middle, the guys hit it. That's just the way it is. There's nothing different than the postseason or regular season; get ahead, expand the strike zone and move people around, same thing that you do all year.
What's the comfort level with pitching here and is that part of you guys having such a great home record the last two years?
CLEMENS: I don't know if there's a comfort in that. I think that you're familiar with the surroundings. I don't try and pitch to the middle of this ballpark which is obviously the most spacious. I think that this ballpark is a little more difficult to pitch in than when I was younger at Fenway. I mean, the distance is almost the same but the wall is not, you don't have the height of the wall. So you know if -- just the other day, Lance's Grand Slam probably went out, obviously one went out in Fenway, but we know what we're up against there. I'm sure the top will be closed, so you know, we take advantage of home-field advantage with the loud crowd and that's what post-season is supposed to be about. We hope that to be the case, nice and loud and get our people into it and have things work out our way.
I think we've been asking you this for years, but every time you go out there it always seems like it could be the last time. Is that an extra edge for you, do you always use that as an incentive, even last couple of years, retiring, coming back, do you think about that at all when you go out there and pitch now that it could be your last time out?
CLEMENS: I haven't thought about that. Two-thousand three is when I really thought about it to be honest with you. Those final pitches were the hardest for me at that point because I didn't obviously know what was in front of me lying ahead. And for that matter, I still don't.
You know things have changed for me over the last couple of weeks. There's a big part of my heart that's missing now with my mother gone, that's just the way it is. I knew I pitched for her but I didn't realize how much that I did.
But make no mistake about it, that still doesn't diminish -- some of my will is gone but not all of it. You just look at things different. Like I said, every time I hear the anthem, I think about her, I think about seeing her face for the last time and that's where I'm trying to draw my strength from and I owe that to my teammates. I owe that to my teammates, to stay upbeat and keep them laughing and they get after me in their own certain ways and have fun with me with their jokes. You know, like I said, ever since I've come home to pitch, my job has been more than just about pitching. I still recognize and understand that that's the most important thing, to get out there and win. You know, some things have changed for me now.
Along those lines talking about the camaraderie on this team when you're having fun with each other, Brad Lidge is saying he fully expects to see Chris Burke on the Tonight Show. Every time he looks up, it's Chris Burke flashing all over the TV set; are guys keeping the kid in his place?
CLEMENS: Same thing I told him, Letterman and Leno, we don't get the phone call, we thought we would be at least getting the limo with him to go to these places.
The Astros finally wining a playoff series and coming back from a 15-30 start and an 18-inning game the last round, do you think the perception of the franchise has changed to the one that loses in the first round to the one that is going to find a way?
CLEMENS: Yeah, I would imagine, I would hope that to be the case, but to be honest with you, I don't really care, because until really Andy and I got here and -- I was a fan before, because even when I played elsewhere, I still rooted for these guys, these cornerstone players that were here. I rooted for those guys anyway.
Even before that, well before that, the Terry Puhl's, the Vern Rhule's, the guys that came out to my high school to work out. They made an impression on me a long time ago. Being my hometown team now, I always watched these guys and rooted for them. And there were some unbelievable games even though that team never advanced, so it's a little different time right now. I have a lot of fond memories of the Astrodome. I know we have moved into a new building now but hopefully we're moving into reaching for higher places, if you will. So we'll see what happens. The opportunity is there. You know, we see it and hear it and it might not come around again and we night not have that opportunity. We know that there are a handful of us that are a little bit older on this club and might not get that chance, so in that sense there is an urgency.
When you say some things have changed for you, obviously you explained it, but does that diminish the possibility of you returning again this year?
CLEMENS: I'm not going to address that. I've been trying to shut it down for two years and I still can't answer that now. I'm glad I left that percentage point open. If nothing else, there's -- I could give you more than probably 10 reasons, but look at the game that I had the chance to perform in and what happened here, just those memories are enough, worth the decision for me to make the decision to get up off my couch and do this.
That hamstring problem that you had towards the end of the regular season, how much does that affect you and how much any lingering effect of that right now?
CLEMENS: I'm not experiencing the stinging pain that I had. It altered a few things. I don't think I was as violent as I needed to be out there, but I was good enough. Some of the results were not great. I made some mistakes that I wasn't real happy with. Again, that's the -- when I use the word frustrating, when your body breaks down, or when my body doesn't do what I'm asking it to do at my age, that's when I start getting upset because I try and keep up with the Joneses. I'm trying to do the work so I can stay up with somebody like Andy and Roy when they are doing their job. I don't think it's any different than y'all out there, you have pride in what you do or you wouldn't be doing it if you didn't have pride in what you do. That's the disappointing part of that. But the leg feels better, I hope my energy level will be high; if not, I'll try and find other ways as far as drawing off the crowd or certain situations, trying to get my energy where it needs to be.
Obviously pitching in the postseason, the margin shrinks, one could be the game or series or whatever. All regular season you've had to pitch without knowing how much run support you're going to get. Being in that mode for such a long period in the season, does that give you something extra going in tomorrow or is that kind of a reach?
CLEMENS: I know it going in, and you can see how certain games are unfolding in front of you. They are going to be tight games. I would expect that. I fully go into tomorrow expecting that.
So, you're right. Over the last two years, I've had a ton of tight ballgames, and you want to stay away from the one mistake that's going to put your guys behind the ball where they are going to have to press, you don't want them to do that. So I think that's why I was disappointed when I was just basically trying to waste a pitch in Atlanta and they hit it out.
You're upset for a minute and then you have to bump it down and go from there, especially when your stuff is not as good as you want it to be. You still want to try to find a way to get it done. You know, that's kind of how I made my mark over my career anyway; even when I was in trouble, I was able to get my way out of it. I was able to buy a few more innings here or there, a few more situations from certain managers that would allow me to get out of my own problems out there and I was able to show that I was able to do it.
You know, sometimes it doesn't work out that way, and it doesn't set well with me, but I know it happens.
From your record the last two years, it doesn't seem that your body broke down very often; how often did it break down, at least in your mind?
CLEMENS: Well, I was fortunate. I had only a few problems with my legs, one coming out of spring training and I had to go back and look at my log to tell you exactly how my body -- what was going on. For the most part, my shoulder and elbow held up fine and I was really lucky.
I mean, again, the toughest decision pacing back and forth in my home to come back and play is just that. I did not want to come out here and let these guys down and get hurt in the first month where, you know, I might need surgery or something where I couldn't perform. If my body would hold up, am I going to have that same drive and determination to do it, to take on this challenge.
But again, what's going on right now tells me it was all worthwhile. So I'm very thankful for that.
How much did you enjoy watching your son play pro ball, and can you envision at some point being on that field out there with him?
CLEMENS: I'm sure at one point I'll be on the field with him. I don't know, he'll probably be competing and I won't, but it was a joy. I mean, I talked about it long before Coby was even a teenager when I had the opportunity to see the Griffeys and Boones and the Bells. I thought it was the neatest thing, so I know how hard it is, but I know that it's been a dream of his to have the opportunity and thank goodness he got it. I think he'll take advantage of it, also, and I think his mother and his brothers, when they saw him in his first week of professional baseball and they send the little kids out there to stand next to him for the anthem, I think that's when it really set in for them that he was a month and a half removed from the high school baseball playoffs and here he is with 20-year-old men and other men.
His childhood basically came to a quick end, which I explained to him. If he goes to college, he'll still be able to have a little fun and do that, not that he's not going to have fun now, but you've got to grow up extremely quick he found that out when he went to the next level, being 18, he was playing with 22 and 25-year-olds. Great experience and the sky is the limit. I just hope the best for him.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.