BOSTON -- Though the first game of the most important regular-season series of 1990 had not even begun, most of the attention already was focused on the second.
Will Roger Clemens start against the Toronto Blue Jays today? That is the question that has the sporting public of Boston in its grip as the Red Sox and Blue Jays attempt to decide who will earn the dubious pleasure of facing the Oakland Athletics in the American League Championship Series.
Clemens has been the talk of the town ever since shoulder tendinitis turned his 20-6 season into a series of much-publicized sideline workouts and medical checkups. More than three weeks have passed since he last pitched in a game, but his return to the rotation -- though tentatively scheduled for today -- remains very much in doubt.
It apparently has been left to Clemens to decide, which is a testament to the importance that has been placed on his contribution to the Red Sox's 1990 pennant drive. He is, arguably, the best pitcher in the American League, and it seems obvious that the club feels that even an injured Clemens is better than none.
The final decision could be made right before the game, when Clemens attempts to warm up. If he cannot get his shoulder loose, left-hander Joe Hesketh will take his place.
Clemens refused to comment yesterday, saying that he would not have anything to say until after today's game. Though that is just his way of avoiding the media between starts, it probably makes sense, since there doesn't figure to be anything conclusive to say until he picks up the ball.
Hesketh didn't really know anything either, though he was told by pitching coach Bill Fischer to be ready in case Clemens isn't. It would not be surprising to see them warming up side-by-side in the Red Sox bullpen.