Battery talked strategy before game; Glavine sharp
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Mike Piazza (right) didn't let the All-Star spotlight affect his performance. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)
HOUSTON -- They talked. They were businesslike. And while Mike Piazza called it an honor to start in an All-Star Game with Roger Clemens, the Mets catcher stopped short of saying the two departed Tuesday night as friends.
"It wasn't awkward," Piazza said of putting down signals for the bulldog pitcher who once decked him with a fastball to the helmet. "We just went in there and got it done. It was somewhat ironic the way it worked out. Nonetheless, we approached it and did what we had to do. We talked. We got a lot on the table and unfortunately the results were frustrating. It still was a great experience."
The sideshow to the spectacle that was the All-Star Game at Minute Maid Park was the uniting of Clemens and Piazza as batterymates.
Remaining as professional and non-controversial as possible, the two did what all pitchers and catchers do. They discussed strategy. But more than just which pitches to throw to which hitters was discussed.
"We met, and talked in the trainers room about the hitters," Piazza said. "It was very amicable. We talked and we basically agreed, obviously, the game was the most important thing.
"It was just very amicable. I don't know what else to say. We had to talk to get on the same page, pitching-wise. That and some other things that were a little personal. Whatever. It was what is was."
Continued being pressed, Piazza said: "It was personal. Obviously, he feels the same way I do. We talked. Boom. It was over."
As far as the game was concerned, the performance was not vintage Clemens.
The 41-year-old Astros right-hander gave up six runs (three earned) in the first inning. Manny Ramirez belted a two-run homer and All-Star MVP Alfonso Soriano connected on a three-run homer.
Given a six-run lead in the first, the American League cruised to a 9-4 win over the National League in the 75th All-Star Game.
"Unfortunately, we gave up a few more runs than we would have liked," Piazza said. "It was a little frustrating early on. But he had great velocity. It was great to catch him. Personally, I'm going to remember this game."
Mike Piazza / C
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Piazza and Clemens have been linked together since 2000. In Interleague Play, the Rocket plunked Piazza in the helmet in a game where earlier the catcher belted a home run.
More animosity brewed in Game 2 of 2000 World Series, when Piazza's bat splattered, causing the barrel to sail toward the mound. Clemens flung the frayed bat at Piazza, creating a stare down and a controversy that has existed ever since.
The backstop was asked if Tuesday's pregame talk put an end to the chapter.
"I don't know, probably not," Piazza said. "I'm betting it was just one of those things. It took on a life of its own. That's just the way it is. It's a long year and we play [the Astros] in New York [in August], and we'll see."
Throughout the ordeal, Piazza has done his best to deflect the issue.
"I never knew what 'it' was," Piazza said. "I kept doing my thing. It was what it was. I still had a job to do. I kept approaching it. People made it a big issue, and that made it a big issue. But that was beyond my control. My control was just to go out there and keep doing my thing."
As far as the hoopla of the two on Tuesday night, Piazza added: "I don't know why there was any hype. It wasn't that big a deal. We had a job to do. We went out and unfortunately we gave up some more runs than we would have liked. It went fairly smoothly, the communication through the game. We both did what we knew we had to do."
If there was any friction among Piazza and Clemens the past two days, it wasn't reflected in the National League clubhouse.
Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell felt the issue was overblown.
"I think they handled it perfectly," Lowell said. "I think you guys made a huge deal of it. It was absolutely nothing in this clubhouse. They were walking out to take a picture and they were talking to each other."
Because the Clemens-Piazza history made so many headlines, Lowell joked: "They were thinking about setting up a ring in here and go three rounds."
Piazza went hitless in both of his at-bats, but he left the game gratified.
"The experience was great. I'm a little frustrated with the game, but to be here and getting the opportunity to come here, I do savor it. It was really special."
Along with Piazza, left-hander Tom Glavine represented the Mets in the Midsummer Classic.
Glavine pitched a scoreless seventh inning, allowing one hit.
"You want to win and you want to go out there and do well," Glavine said. "I feel bad for Rog. I know being in his hometown and everything that was going on, it's not the way he wanted to go out there and have this night go. You want to win the game, but in the end, it's obviously not as important as a regular-season game and you want to have fun."
The light-hearted nature of the game was reflected in how players sign jerseys for each other, and joke around.
Casually, Piazza talked with Arizona ace Randy Johnson. According to some media on hand, Piazza was urging Johnson to consider a trade with the Mets.
"I don't want to get fined for tampering," Piazza said when asked if he was "recruiting" Johnson. "I wasn't tampering in any way.
"If someone does end up with him, they are going to end up with a great pitcher who has tested through a pennant race and a World Series. If it worked out for us, that would be great."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.