Well, well. Looks like Roger Clemens is going to have the last laugh, after all.
Seems that Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston was pretty sure his team wouldn't be seeing Clemens when the Boston Red Sox opened the season Monday at the SkyDome. So sure that he even teased Clemens' agents, whom he knows and likes, in a telephone call to the American League office on the day Clemens appealed his five-game suspension.But, hee haw, the joke is on the Jays. Because when AL president Bobby Brown upheld Clemens' suspension and $10,000 fine, he took his case to commissioner Fay Vincent. So the penalties will not take effect until a hearing can be held later this month, making Clemens eligible to pitch.
"It's good to have your ace start the season," Boston catcher Tony Pena said. "We weren't counting on him, but now that we've got him, it's a positive thing. Everybody has a lot of confidence in him."
Clemens was 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA against Toronto last season and is 9-4 lifetime vs. the Blue Jays. In his appeal to Brown, Clemens argued that even if he is going to be suspended, he shouldn't skip a start against Toronto, Boston's chief rival in the AL East last year.
"Of course it's good to have him. But he can lose just as easily as win," Boston's Wade Boggs said. "This guy doesn't walk on water."
The Red Sox went 10-3 against the Blue Jays last season and finished in first place, two games ahead of Toronto. If Vincent upholds the suspension, there's still a chance Clemens could miss out when Toronto visits Fenway Park on April 22-24.
"It doesn't make a difference who pitches for them," Toronto's Devon White said. "At least, it shouldn't make a difference."
Clemens threw the first pitch of the 1990 season, and wound up winning against Detroit that day. He finished the season 21-6 and led the majors with a 1.93 ERA.
This year's first pitch will be thrown Monday afternoon at Tiger Stadium by Frank Tanana when Detroit faces Tim Leary and the New York Yankees. There are five games in the AL and three in the National League, including World Series champion Cincinnati at home against Houston. All other teams begin the season Tuesday.Dave Stieb, who pitched one of the record nine no-hitters last year, will start for Toronto against Boston. Nolan Ryan and Terry Mulholland, who took part in the no-hit parade, also will pitch Monday.
Ryan, 44, will begin his 25th major league season, one short of the record, when Texas plays host to Mark Knudson and the Milwaukee Brewers at night.
In the last two years, Ryan has won his 300th game, struck out his 5,000th batter and pitched his sixth no-hitter. In terms of really big numbers, there's not much left.
"Sure, I'd like to have something to shoot at, but I think it will be good if we don't have any distractions in the clubhouse and take away from what the team is trying to do," Ryan said.
Mulholland will start for the Philadelphia Phillies when they open at New York. Dwight Gooden, who recently became the second-highest paid player in baseball, will open for the Mets.
Cincinnati's Tom Browning and Houston's Mike Scott face each other in a duel of former no-hit pitchers. Cy Young winner Doug Drabek starts for host Pittsburgh against Montreal's Dennis Martinez in the NL's only night opener.
In other AL afternoon openers, Jack McDowell and the Chicago White Sox take on Jeff Ballard and the Baltimore Orioles as the last season at Memorial Stadium begins, and Greg Swindell and the Cleveland Indians are in Kansas City to face Bret Saberhagen and the Royals.