Clemens brings insight to Sox's radio booth

June 17th, 2017

HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens does not need to be watching Red Sox games on television to know when their ace, Chris Sale, is having one of those special games.

"I get texts about Chris when he's winging it," Clemens said Friday night at Minute Maid Park, where he joined the Red Sox's radio team for one game as a guest color commentator.

"His strikeout totals, he mounts 'em up pretty quick," Clemens said. "Somebody will text me and tell me, 'He's after your record. You'd better turn the TV on.'"

That includes a game like Thursday's, when Sale struck out 10 Phillies in eight innings to run his season total to 136, tops in the Majors. Sale has notched double-digit strikeout totals in nine of his 14 starts. He hasn't come close to Clemens' shared single-game record of 20, but he's on a pace to ring up 334. Clemens topped 200 strikeouts 12 times, but never got to 300. To say Clemens is impressed with Sale would be an understatement.

"He's got some wipeout pitches," Clemens said. "Was it yesterday? It looked like he was taking something off his slider for the first time. It was breaking a little bit more. Instead of being a power slider, it was more like a slurve. He was being creative out there."

Clemens visited the Red Sox's clubhouse before the game to chat with players and prepare for the broadcast. He said he has never had much interest in doing radio or television work, but he did this one on Friday as a favor to Red Sox broadcaster Joe Castiglione, a longtime friend, who has cut back on his travel.

Clemens is asked if there's some sort of formula for succeeding in Boston, where there's a postseason-like scrutiny of almost every game.

"I think you embrace it." Clemens said. "I learned it's a little different brand of baseball in the East. People are very prideful. I learned a lot. I had my bumps in the road. You want to do so well all the time, but when you don't, it gets at you a little bit.

"It's no different than the talk I gave with the Astros this year: Be as nasty and tough and tenacious as you can be on the field. Be the nicest person off the field. But you've got to play with a chip on your shoulder to advance in this league."

Clemens, who partnered with Red Sox broadcaster Tim Neverett on Friday, offers a unique perspective, having played for both the Red Sox and Astros. He still has a consultant role with the Astros and remains in contact with several players.

One of those players is Astros ace , who is 9-0 but on the 10-day disabled list with a pinched nerve in his neck. Clemens said he first heard of Keuchel after the 2009 MLB Draft.

"One of my old batterymates, Charlie O'Brien, called me and said, 'Pay attention to this kid,'" Clemens remembered. "He said, 'Give him a little love and a little help and see what he can turn into.'"

Clemens and Keuchel have built a casual relationship similar to those Clemens has with and of the Cubs, as well as several others. He offers all of them advice when asked.

Likewise, after the Astros acquired catcher last offseason, Clemens told him that might be a difference-making kind of talent.

"McCullers was always my swingman for these guys to do what they're doing," Clemens said. "When you have another guy [in addition to Keuchel] to come with you and win 17 or 19 games, you've got a postseason winner, which is a lot of fun."

Clemens believes the Astros' trip to the playoffs in 2015 will benefit this team.

"The thing I watch for is -- keep your fingers crossed -- if they get to the dance, where they've got to win 11 games, what I recognize from last time is guys were swinging at pitches out of the zone, trying to do too much," Clemens said. "That's just another notch in their belt of experience. When you get there, everything kind of speeds up and you've got to take a deep breath."

Clemens continues to inch toward Hall of Fame induction, crossing the 50 percent threshold (54.1 percent) for the first time during his fifth appearance on the ballot. He's still far short of the required 75 percent needed for induction, but is getting closer.

"I get texts from guys telling me to hang in there," Clemens said. "I appreciate it. I have no control over it. I did what I needed to do. It's not going to change me."