Rocket grounded for good? Struggling Clemens leaves Game 3 early with injury Print
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Sunday, 07 October 2007 22:03
MLB Headline News

 NEW YORK (AP) -The Rocket might be grounded for good.
Bothered by an ailing leg, Roger Clemens left his Game 3 start Sunday night against Cleveland in the third inning with the New York Yankees trailing and on the brink of playoff elimination.
He walked slowly off the mound with his head hanging, snagged again by a balky hamstring. Now, after yet another October injury, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history could finally be finished.
``I've been doing everything I possibly could to get it right,'' Clemens said. ``In this situation, I can't hurt my team. There's no reason to expect anything to happen. It basically came out of nowhere.''
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner got an encouraging pat on the chest from Alex Rodriguez before trudging toward the dugout. New York rallied to beat the Indians 8-4, but Clemens' status for the rest of the postseason - and his career, for that matter - is in doubt.
``I don't want to say it's heartbreaking because he wouldn't want me to say that. But the way he goes out there, he was very unhappy when we took him out,'' manager Joe Torre said. ``Not the fact that, you know, he felt he could pitch more, it was just the fact that he was there to do a job and he was really upset that he had to leave.''
Once in the dugout, the 45-year-old right-hander disappeared up the runway toward the clubhouse. After the game, Clemens insisted he couldn't even think about whether his storied career is over.
``I don't know,'' was about all he would say on the matter before limping slightly as he walked out of Yankee Stadium with his sons.
The Yankees were considering whether to replace Clemens on the first-round roster. They can do that under a new rule this year, but he wouldn't be eligible to pitch again until the World Series.
Who knows if he'd even be healthy by then?
``That's being talked about,'' Torre said. ``I guess we have to ask permission and stuff.''
The hamstring started bothering Clemens again when he broke for Kenny Lofton's bunt attempt in the second inning.
``It locked up from that point on. Once that happens, your focus has to go to an all-time high,'' he said. ``I just felt it on every pitch.''
After the inning, Clemens told a Yankees trainer about the problem.
``I was trying to give them as much warning as possible,'' he said.
The Rocket put off retirement (again) with a rock-star introduction from owner George Steinbrenner's box at Yankee Stadium in early May.
Clemens came back, with a contract that paid him $17.4 million, for just this type of situation - a chance to help the Yankees in October.
Turned out, they needed more than that. New York fell behind Cleveland 2-0 in their best-of-five playoff series before sending Clemens and his gimpy leg to the mound with the season on the line. It was his first outing since Sept. 16 and second since Sept. 3 because of a cranky elbow and sore left hamstring.
The Rocket worked out in Tampa, Fla., to get ready and pronounced himself fit just a few days ago. But he never looked comfortable on Sunday and was forced to leave early, just like his previous postseason appearance.
Pitching for his hometown Houston Astros, Clemens hobbled off the field after two innings in Game 1 of the 2005 World Series against the Chicago White Sox with a strained left hamstring, the same injury that shelved him Sunday.
``Roger's got a lot of guts. He always has,'' Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. ``He was trying to tough it out out there, and I think he took it about as far as he could go.''
Clemens was replaced by rookie Phil Hughes, who tossed 3 2-3 scoreless innings for the win.
Before he left, Clemens gave up a two-out RBI single to Ryan Garko in the first and a solo homer to personal nemesis Trot Nixon in the second.
``That was just a flat split,'' Clemens said.
The Rocket was hurt by shortstop Derek Jeter's bad throw in the first, though the play was scored a hit. He yielded three runs and four hits in 2 1-3 innings, with two walks and a strikeout. After Hughes came in, he threw a wild pitch before allowing an RBI double to Jhonny Peralta that put Cleveland up 3-0.
Headed to the Hall of Fame, Clemens has 354 wins and two World Series titles. He ranks second on the career strikeout list with 4,672.
The Rocket went 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA for New York this season, striking out 68 in 99 innings.

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