Clemens impressing Astros in long-relief role
DETROIT -- Paul Clemens had spent the majority of his Minor League career preparing to be a starting pitcher in the big leagues. However, it's in the bullpen that the right-hander is beginning to make a name for himself.
Clemens entered a 7-2 game against Detroit on Monday night in the sixth inning and proceeded to fire three hitless innings, issuing only one walk while striking out Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in order.
"Clemens did a great job," manager Bo Porter said after the Astros' loss. "He did a great job attacking the strike zone and he had some really good put-away pitches against a great lineup."
The 25-year-old got Hunter and Cabrera swinging at 78-mph curveballs before forcing a third straight whiff from Fielder on a 94-mph heater to lead off the eighth inning. What made it more impressive was that Clemens came in without a chance to warm up, as starter Bud Norris exited with lower back spasms prior to the sixth.
"I just wanted to pick [Bud] up and get my job done," Clemens said. "Doesn't matter when they bring you in, gotta get your job done. No excuses."
Aside from yielding five runs in six innings during his Major League debut in Seattle -- which came on April 8 after Josh Fields went down with an injury -- Clemens has consistently gotten the job done. He's been one of the team's best arms, posting a 2.86 ERA in 10 appearances and 22 innings since that first outing.
When the Astros acquired Clemens in 2011 from the Braves as part of a five-player deal for Michael Bourn, the hope was the right-hander would turn into this type of pitcher. The club understood he had the powerful stuff to be successful.
As far as Clemens' future role, the verdict is still out. He has primarily been used as a long reliever this season, but general manager Jeff Luhnow said earlier this season no decision has been definitively made.
In Clemens' 129 appearances in the Minors, 82 of them came in a starting role, and he hadn't entered a game in relief since 2010.