NEW YORK — The relaunch of the Rocket has been scrubbed. At least temporarily.
While there had been talk of Roger Clemens making his much-anticipated Yankees debut in Toronto on Tuesday night, those plans have now been scrapped following Clemens’ mediocre outing in Trenton on Wednesday. Instead, the veteran right-hander will take the mound Monday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against the Toledo Mud Hens in what could be his final minor league tuneup.
“We want him when he’s ready, no sooner than that and no later than that,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday. “He’s lined up to start Monday in Scranton and we’ll take it start by start. We’ll evaluate him after each start. When he’s ready, then we’ll launch him. But other than that you have to go through the process.”
Which in Clemens’ case means a third minor league start.
Clemens didn’t exactly flash his vintage form against the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs on Wednesday night, allowing six hits and three earned runs while walking four and striking out five in 5 1/3 innings. He also uncorked a wild pitch, hit a batter and took 30 pitches to get out of the first inning.
But Cashman believes the Yankees’ latest big-ticket addition is nonetheless rounding into form.
“He feels good and he’s definitely going in the right direction,” Cashman said. “(But) it’s hard to be ready especially after just two (outings). We just feel he needs another turn and we’ll go from there. We’ll take it one step at a time.”
Cashman said Clemens threw a bullpen session in Houston on Friday and said that “everything went well.” If Clemens fares better Monday night against Toledo, it would set up the possibility of him making his first Yankees start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on either June 2 or 3. But Cashman didn’t want to discuss any firm dates for the Rocket’s return.
“I’m not going to fast forward,” Cashman said. “Basically the time line is through Monday and then after that we’ll evaluate and we’ll take a step back and see where we’re at after Monday.”
Cashman did say Clemens took the news of another minor league start fine but is determined to join the big club sooner rather than later.
“I consider him like a raging bull, he’s always ready,” Cashman said. “He’s a guy who understands the process and he’s included in the process and he wants to get up here when he’s ready to help. We got Billy Connors and Gene Michael watching him from the scouting side to go along with him every step of the way. We’ll take it one step at a time. Obviously we brought him back for a reason, to try to help us, but all in good time. We want him when he’s ready and it’s our job, obviously, to determine that by what we see. We look forward to Monday’s start and that will be the next step in the process. Let’s get through Monday and we’ll see where we’re at after that.”
Even though Monday’s game is already sold out, the Yankees announced Friday night that additional seating and standing-room-only tickets will be made available.
Bullpen field box tickets will sell for $25, and SRO tickets will cost $15. Fans interested in purchasing tickets may do so in person at the PNC Field box office, beginning at 10 a.m. today.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre executive vice president and COO Jeremy Ruby said giving fans what they want is what the Yankees organization is all about.
“With the demand the way it is, and with how many people want to be part of something special like this, we thought this was the best way to involve as many fans as possible,” Ruby said. “With Roger Clemens and Memorial Day baseball, it’s just something that we know will be exciting for everyone.”
Fans are encouraged to arrive early for the game, which will begin at 5 p.m. The gates will open at 3 p.m.
Parking will be available in the PNC Field lot as usual, with overflow parking available across the street for the ballpark for a $3 fee.