Split-finger or HGH? Trial debates Clemens career

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 30, 2012
Knowledgeable baseball fans can argue all day whether it was the split-finger fastball - and not performance-enhancing drugs - that kept Roger Clemens on top of his game well into his 30s and beyond. His lawyers are trying to make that point at a trial where basic terms such as ''Fenway Park'' and ''foul pole'' require an explanation for a jury of nonfans. Former journeyman catcher Charlie O'Brien was on the stand Wednesday for the defense at the Clemens perjury trial. He was fuzzy about lots of details, couldn't come up with a real name for the player known as ''El Duque'' and totally dissed the 1997 Toronto Blue Jays medical staff. But there was no doubt in his mind about two things: Clemens was not a cheater, and the weapon Clemens mastered at age 34 was the chief reason the 11-time All-Star was able to pitch for another decade. ''That pitch right there - the split-finger fastball,'' O'Brien said. O'Brien caught Clemens' games for much of the 1997 Blue Jays season, a crucial time period as prosecutors attempt to prove that Clemens lied when he told Congress in 2008 that he never took steroids and human growth hormone. After being discarded following 13 seasons with the Boston Red Sox - Boston's then-general manager, Dan Duquette, said at the time that Clemens was in the ''twilight'' of his career - a motivated Clemens arrived in Toronto and promptly won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 1997-98. But it was also in 1998 that Clemens met strength coach Brian McNamee, who says he injected the pitcher with steroids and HGH over the following three years and testified that he had the impression the Clemens had used steroids previously. The government used its cross-examination of witnesses Wednesday to reinforce its claim that Clemens turned to performance-enhancing drugs to help his aging body recover more quickly during the physically demanding major league seasons. Also on the stand was Darrin Fletcher, Clemens' catcher from the 1998 Blue Jays season. Fletcher testified that he didn't see Clemens at a pool party at teammate Jose Canseco's house in Florida in June of that season, but Fletcher also said he left the party around 1:30 p.m. A government witness recalled seeing Clemens at the party later in the day. One of the lesser charges against Clemens is that he lied when he told Congress that he wasn't at the party at all. In front of a jury consisting mostly of people who know little about baseball, Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin went for a visual effect to explain how the split-finger revolutionized Clemens' game, striking a pose as a left-handed hitter in front of O'Brien, who pantomimed the grip of a baseball while seated in the witness chair. ''It just totally changed how he could approach each hitter,'' O'Brien said. O'Brien was even a better witness for the defense during cross-examination, when he volunteered that Clemens would refuse to throw scuffed baseballs because Clemens considered it ''cheating.'' He said he once approached Clemens on the mound during a game with a scuffed ball and said, ''This is a great ball to use.'' He said Clemens responded: ''I don't need that.'' ''I don't think he'd cheat,'' O'Brien said. ''Would Roger Clemens do anything to cheat in baseball?'' Hardin asked during the defense's following-up questioning. ''No sir,'' O'Brien said. O'Brien also said he would sometimes see multiple needles of vitamin B12 ''lined up ready to go'' in the Toronto clubhouse, supporting another statement made by Clemens that the government has sought to disprove. As a sidelight, O'Brien said the Blue Jays' medical services at the time were ''very poor'' and that former Blue Jays head athletic trainer Tommy Craig was a nice guy but ''might have been one of the worst trainers.'' O'Brien also had trouble recognizing Clemens in a Blue Jays team photo and couldn't explain to the jury the identity of the former New York Yankees pitcher known widely as El Duque. ''What's his name, Roger?'' O'Brien blurted out toward the defense table. Clemens didn't give the answer that baseball fans already know: Orlando Hernandez. Fletcher was nearly as entertaining as he gave up some of Clemens' trade secrets as a pitcher. Clemens, for example, would purse his lips on the mound to ask for curveballs. ''You're not making a comeback any time are you, Roger?'' Fletcher said. ''I'm not giving anything away, am I?'' Clemens laughed. Fletcher caused laughter again when asked about the pool party. Fletcher indicated it would have left an impression if he had seen Clemens. ''I've always wanted to see Roger in a bathing suit,'' he said. The day began with more testimony from Todd Howey, one of Clemens' high school teammates. Then came former Red Sox assistant general manager Steven August. Both spoke glowingly of Clemens' talent and work ethic, but the pace was again painfully slow - even for a trial now in its seventh week. Among the rudimentary baseball terms explained to the jury: fungo bat, platoon player, won-loss record and the 1994 players' strike. Prosecutor Gil Guerrero, perhaps out of exasperation with all of the testimonials that Clemens was receiving, at one point told August: ''You understand he's not on trial for how great he was in baseball.'' --- Associated Press writer Frederic J. Frommer contributed to this report. --- Follow Joseph White at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP Follow Fred Frommer at http://twitter.com/ffrommer
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Five most anticipated September MLB call-ups
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Vikings announce Teddy Bridgewater has a torn ACL

Craig Sager to undergo third bone marrow transplant

Madden 17's live commentary tackles Kaepernick controversy

Nationals' Stephen Strasburg expected to return next week

WATCH: Footage surfaces from Tim Tebow’s baseball workout

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Teddy Bridgewater suffers serious knee injury at practice?

EON Sports strikes VR partnerships with Miami, PSU

Mike Tyson accused of stealing ice cream treat at U.S. Open

Calvin Johnson to join DWTS, but sister says he ‘can’t dance’

Eagles rookie nixes anthem protest after talking to agent

Report: Romo has no ligament damage, to resume training soon

WATCH: Lorenzo Neal on the one move that caused the demise of the Chargers

Teddy Bridgewater injury puts Vikings' plans up in the air

The hottest MLB pitchers headed into September sprint

Kanye West, Saint Pablo Tour and the anti-celebrity

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

Vontaze Burfict on Steelers: ‘I don’t give no f—s about them’

Alistair Overeem: Brock Lesnar will never return to UFC

Top five Heisman Trophy candidates for 2016

Five young NFL players set to explode in 2016

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: Lorenzo Neal on the one move that caused the demise of the Chargers

The hottest MLB pitchers headed into September sprint

West-ern Literature: How Kanye's fans find meaning in between the lines

Madden 17's live commentary tackles Kaepernick controversy

Kanye West, Saint Pablo Tour and the anti-celebrity

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker