Kody Clemens, Roger's son, records 1st K ... vs. Ohtani!

September 6th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- Baseball legend Roger Clemens finished his 24-year MLB career with a remarkable 4,672 strikeouts, the third-most all time.

His son, Kody Clemens, only has one. But the infielder-by-trade/reliever-when-necessary may now have substantive bragging rights, after notching his first strikeout against none other than two-way sensation/superstar/reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani.

With the Tigers on the wrong end of a lopsided game late in Monday night’s 10-0 loss to the Angels at Angel Stadium, it was Clemens who was called upon by manager A.J. Hinch to save the bullpen in the eighth inning, which provided the context for Clemens’ emphatic post-strikeout fist pump -- and his saving of the ball as a souvenir.

“I’ll probably definitely frame it, for sure,” Clemens said after the game with a smile.

Willing to answer a call that’s come his way three times in the past seven days (and six times this season), Clemens was definitely aware of the chance to face Ohtani, who’d already swatted his 31st and 32nd home runs of the season on the night.

“[We] were talking in the dugout. I was like, ‘I’m probably going to face Shohei in the eighth, or whatever,'” Clemens explained. “I was just throwing it in there, and I got to two strikes. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this might happen. Who knows?' And I threw it 60-whatever miles an hour, and luckily, he took it.”

In reality, it was registered as a 68.4 mph eephus pitch, which in the context of the game worked the same as an expertly-placed, high-velocity heater.

“I just throw a fastball, and then I have like a little ‘air cutter’ that I mess around with for fun. I don’t know,” a still clearly gobsmacked Clemens joked about his pitching repertoire.

Did it look to him like the pitch caught Ohtani off-guard?

“I don’t know. I mean, it caught me by surprise," Clemens said.

“It was a wonderful pitch," Ohtani later said with a laugh.

The circumstances of Clemens’ first strikeout were not ideal. That much was obvious. No team wants to resort to trotting a position player out to the mound, as it likely means things aren’t going well.

“I never even thought I would pitch in the big leagues, you know? So it’s pretty wild,” Clemens said. “I don’t want to ever pitch. None of us [position players] do. When it comes to that moment, it’s unfortunate. … It’s not a fun feeling when we have to do that.”

Of course, these particular circumstances allowed for a bit of amusement for Clemens, who has now logged six innings, allowing three runs on 10 hits with that one now-legendary strikeout. Is he on his way to becoming baseball's next two-way star?

“No, not even close,” Clemens said with a laugh.

“We can’t throw it slow enough for Ohtani,” Hinch said in assessing Clemens’ appearance. “You’ve got to throw it slow, and slow, and slow, and then surprise him with the fastball. A big smile on Kody’s face, Shohei tipped his cap. I don’t know if he’s ever faced a position player before, but that’ll go down in the memory book for Kody.”

It was a rare moment of levity on a night that was otherwise a wash for the rebuilding Tigers (51-84), who were shut out for the 19th time this season, the most by a Tigers team since 1976, and tying the 2014 Mariners for the most by an AL team in the past 40 years.

Against Angels lefty José Suarez and a pair of relievers, Detroit mustered only four hits -- none of which came from rookie Riley Greene, whose 13-game hitting streak ended. Despite that, Greene turned in an impressive night on defense, coming close to a miraculous catch in the third on a Luis Rengifo triple and -- on the next pitch -- making a diving catch on a liner from Taylor Ward.

“He’s been incredible,” Hinch said of Greene. “He’s always prepared, he does his part. Effort’s never a problem. He’s running all over the place, diving on the warning track. He’s got a bright future.”

Does Clemens also have a bright future in terms of bragging rights he could use when sparring with his father about their careers?

“I mean, no,” Clemens admitted. “He struck out a bunch of unbelievable hitters in his career, so he’s got me by a long shot.”

In this case, that long shot is separated by 4,671 -- though the younger Clemens at least has a surreal story to tell for the rest of his life.