Rocket vs. Pedro:
BOSTON -- The days have become hours for Roger Clemens as he nears the end of a storybook career.
It won't be much longer before he pulls off his uniform for the final time. That last Major League moment could happen Saturday evening after Game 3 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Red Sox.
If the series goes seven games, The Rocket would get another chance to pitch. But after
listening to him speak Friday afternoon at Fenway Park, Clemens seems at peace with his
decision to walk away from the game, whenever his last outing is. All that's left to be
determined is when that sojourn will officially begin.
Clemens was reflective and engaging as he met with the media, talking about his career and
how he would like to be remembered. Oh, he also mentioned the little matter of the matchup
at hand and what happened the last time he pitched in a playoff game in Beantown.
If Saturday's game is the final outing of his career, he couldn't go out on more of an
entertaining note. He's pitching against his former team and against Pedro Martinez, the
resident Red Sox ace. While he recognizes the significance of the matchup and the potential it
holds, he also is trying his darndest not to let the hype get in the way.
"We're not in a boxing ring," Clemens said. "I have got nine or 12 or 14 guys that have to go to
the plate against Pedro and they will try to break him down and execute. I will have my own
game plan as far as how I'm going to try and break down this lineup that the Red Sox have,
which is a very good lineup. It's all about making pitches and that's what I have to do.
"I don't really get into that part of it, but I think it's a great matchup. This is what playoff
baseball is about. If Pedro is on and I'm on, then it's going to be exciting. If one of us doesn't
make the pitches then it's not going to be that great of a game. That's why you get up in
December to work -- for these moments and to have the manager hand me the ball and telling
me to go get 'em. That's what I've done my entire career and that's what I look forward to."
Clemens has been in this position before. He last pitched in Boston during the playoffs during
the 1999 ALCS. The experience was certainly a memorable one but not in the way The Rocket
would have liked. The Sox strafed him for five runs on six hits, knocking him out of the game
after two innings.
"He handled it with a lot of class," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He left and he
understood that it wasn't a good day for him. I know in his mind, as I did get to know him,
that he felt like he let everyone down.
"He didn't look like himself right from the get-go. It looked like he was all over the place as far
as his control and command were concerned and that's not a good sign, especially when
you're pitching against Pedro."
While the emotion of the moment got to Clemens that day, Torre has also said repeatedly that
Clemens is a different pitcher and a different person than he was then. And he seems confident
that The Rocket can block out the external distractions, be it the jeers of Red Sox Nation or the
other guy who will be on the mound.
"You don't want to beat Pedro," Torre said. "You want to beat the Red Sox. Not that you don't
want to beat him but you don't go out there with that in mind. I remember years ago when
Bob Gibson pitched against Tom Seaver and Seaver was younger than Gibson. And early on,
Gibson had success against Seaver.
"What I saw at that time was that Seaver was pitching against Gibson but Gibson was
pitching against the Mets and that's how you have to approach it. That's the perspective you
have to have and I know both pitchers are going to understand that."
Clemens says his approach is the same today as it was in 1999. He firmly believes that he will
beat an opponent physically, mentally and emotionally. Otherwise, he doesn't dwell on that
rather forgettable day at Fenway, simply lumping it in with other bad games he's had in his
"I love to compete. To my last game I love to compete, and I've never lost that. I've never
lost that will and desire to compete."
-- Roger Clemens
What he will remember is all the positives. And that's what others will remember as well. But
he doesn't want to put any ideas in anyone's head. He's going to leave his legacy to his
teammates and the fans.
"I think if you ask all of my teammates that I've played with from the past, the comments I
get from my peers and the guys I've competed against, I don't have to look any further than
that," Clemens said. "Those are the guys I appreciate.
"And I love to compete. To my last game I love to compete, and I've never lost that. I've never
lost that will and desire to compete."
Though the time to experience that feeling on the mound is running out.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter
for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its