Clemens to face Class A on Friday

Clemens to face Class A on Friday

SEATTLE -- The countdown for The Rocket's liftoff has begun.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said on Sunday that right-hander Roger Clemens is tentatively lined up to make his first Minor League appearance on Friday for the Class A Tampa Yankees, pitching against the Fort Myers Miracle in a Florida State League game.

Clemens, 44, spent most of last week working at the University of Kentucky complex following the announcement of a prorated one-year, $28 million contract.

Eventually, Clemens will be back into the pinstriped uniform of the Yankees, for whom he pitched from 1999-2003. Clemens is expected to report to the Yankees' Legends Field complex on Monday and has been scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday.

Torre said that the Yankees have not yet decided if Clemens will need two or three starts in the Minor Leagues before making his first big-league appearance.

"A lot of it will depend after the first start," Torre said. "We'll see what that is, and if everything goes according to the way we expect it to go, he'll graduate."

Torre indicated that Clemens is likely to pitch just once for Class A Tampa, with the Yankees mindful of their Minor League schedules so as to keep Clemens at home stadiums, where the organization can control all aspects of mound maintenance.

Assuming Clemens makes it through his first effort for Tampa, he could pitch on May 23 for the Double-A Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League, facing the Portland Sea Dogs at Waterfront Park in New Jersey.

From there, the Yankees would need to decide whether Clemens' next start would come at Triple-A -- he would line up to pitch for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on May 28 against Toledo in an International League contest -- or in the big leagues.

The Yankees play at Toronto on May 28, but a third Minor League start would put Clemens in line to make his big-league return on June 2 at Boston's Fenway Park.

Torre said that he has not spoken recently with Clemens, but he has heard promising reports.

"He feels pretty good, from what I understand," Torre said. "But again, he needs to get his legs under him. The arm is one thing, but the legs are a big contributor to the way he pitches."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.