Roger Clemens will pitch on short rest for the first time this season today when the Houston Astros face the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of their National League Division Series.
Houston Manager Phil Garner asked Clemens if he could start, and the Rocket eagerly accepted the challenge.
"Roger feels he can come back," Garner said. "He's preparing to come back on Sunday and I will plan to use him."
In Houston's 9-3 win over Atlanta in Game 1 on Wednesday, Clemens showed the effects of a stomach virus that kept him from making his last start of the regular season.
He walked six -- all in the first four innings and his most since 1998. But Clemens went seven innings, yielding six hits and two earned runs while striking out six.
Clemens won a Game 1 start for the first time in his storied career.
At 42, Clemens has looked nothing like a guy who retired for 78 days last winter: His winning percentage of .818 led the majors, he tied for second in the NL with 18 wins and was fifth with a 2.98 ERA.
Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox wasn't surprised when told that Clemens would start.
"He's done that numerous times in his career," Cox said. "He's a horse and he's accustomed to it. No reason not to."
Cox apparently doesn't feel the same way about his Game 1 starter, Jaret Wright. The Braves will go with right-hander Russ Ortiz.
Schilling Saves the Trip
Boston's sweep of the Angels allows the Red Sox to rest Curt Schilling for the AL Championship Series. It also saved Schilling a trip.
If the Red Sox had lost Game 3 of the Division Series, Schilling was going to fly to California on Saturday to be ready for a possible decisive game this afternoon. And if Boston won Game 4, Schilling would have just turned around and come back home.
Pick Up the Phone
Rest assured, the bullpen phones in Houston will be working this weekend.
Garner was still miffed Friday, a day after Atlanta played Game 2 of the NL division series under protest. The Braves contended Garner feigned a problem with the bullpen phone at Turner Field to give reliever Brad Lidge more time to warm up in the seventh inning.
"I'm offended because it's my integrity," Garner said. "There's other ways to stall if I really want to do it. I can tell you for a fact those phones didn't work."
Braves Manager Bobby Cox said he chatted with Garner briefly between their teams' workouts on Friday, and was satisfied with Garner's explanation.
"If there's one guy in this profession of managing I would believe, it would be Phil Garner," Cox said. "I knew at the time it wasn't a big deal. No, it was legit."
Don't Forget Matsui
Gary Sheffield is the MVP candidate. Alex Rodriguez is the multi-skilled superstar. Derek Jeter is the team captain.
But don't forget Hideki Matsui, one of New York's most reliable hitters all season.
"He's such a true professional," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said.
Through Games 1 and 2 of the AL Division Series against Minnesota, Matsui was New York's second-best hitter (.375) behind Rodriguez (.600). In the regular season, Matsui batted a team-high .298 and drove in 108 runs, second behind Sheffield's 121.
Matsui became the third player in the last 50 years to drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first two seasons in the major leagues, joining Wally Joyner and Albert Pujols. Matsui's 325 consecutive games played is the longest such streak to begin a big league career since Ernie Banks broke into the majors with 424 games in a row for the Chicago Cubs.
"You do take him for granted," Torre said. "You write his name in the lineup and he knows what to do. I trust him a great deal."