Clemens uses smarts to beat O's

SIDELIGHT

June 23, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

The Boston Red Sox need Roger Clemens to pitch well to win the AL East, but they do not need Clemens to strike people out.

Clemens struck out only one Orioles hitter in 6 2/3 innings -- but the Red Sox won and Clemens (2-1, 3.83 ERA) got his 174th victory.

Partly because of a spring-training injury and partly because he's been in the in the league 10 years, Clemens isn't the same pitcher who set the major-league record with 20 strikeouts in one game.

He proved last night that he doesn't have to be.

"Strikeouts are great. They're important when you've got a man on third and one out," Clemens said. "But I've got to pitch, too, and try to get into the seventh or eighth inning."

Clemens will strike people out this season. But not yet. He strained a muscle behind his right shoulder on the first day of spring training, made two minor-league starts, and made his first of four major-league starts on June 2.

"This is sort of like my 20 minutes of spring training, and I'm doing it at this level," Clemens said. "Everybody's going to come at me hard. I don't have all my weapons yet, but I'm getting better."

Clemens allowed one unearned run, six hits and three walks, and he did it with nine ground outs and nine fly outs.

His one strikeout of Cal Ripken in the second inning was his lowest total of the year. He has 26 strikeouts in his other four starts, with a high of eight and a low of four.

Ripken, who was 1-for-3 against Clemens, has respect for him not only as a hard thrower but also as a cunning pitcher.

"He's always been a great pitcher and not just a hard thrower," Ripken said. "He still throws the ball very fast, but he uses the fastball differently. Today he throws other pitches in certain counts to set you up in different ways."

Clemens spotted his fastball, which was clocked at about 89 mph, and mixed in sliders, forkballs and curves, Ripken said.

But one strikeout? Not exactly a performance by a pitcher nicknamed the Rocket.

Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy doesn't mind, and neither do his teammates.

"I'm not worried about strikeouts," Kennedy said. "He had great stuff, and he's still building up his strength."

Outfielder Mike Greenwell said, "It's going to take a while for him to get back to being the pitcher that he is. He can still win by being a control pitcher."

Clemens really has not been overpowering for three seasons.

In 1993 and 1994 Clemens' strikeout totals dropped to 160 and 168 -- signs that after 10 years the 33-year-old pitcher is more of a thinker than a thrower.

Clemens' 2,227 strikeouts place him 35th on the all-time list in front of Jim Palmer.

He has struck out the side 89 times and has thrown 59 10-strikeout games and has seven straight 200-strikeout seasons.

Last night was a sign that whether he strikes people out or not, Clemens can win.

"I can be overpowering," Clemens said. "But I've got to pitch, too."

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