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A stellar holiday in Scranton for Clemens

A stellar holiday in Scranton for Clemens

MOOSIC, Pa. -- Roger Clemens sure seems ready to officially begin his 24th season in the Major Leagues.

In his third Minor League start, his first for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, Clemens pitched six scoreless innings, giving up two hits and two walks while striking out six against the Toledo Mud Hens before an overflow crowd of more than 11,310 at PNC Field on Monday. The crowd, which began filing in more than two hours before the first pitch at 5:04 p.m. ET, gave Clemens a rousing ovation as he left the field at the end of the sixth.

Clemens threw 89 pitches, 57 for strikes, and allowed just one baserunner to advance to second base.

"I still feel like I have command of the strike zone," Clemens said after the Yankees defeated the Mud Hens, 2-0. "I'm not exactly where I'd like to be, but I'm moving forward."

It's unclear whether Clemens will require another Minor League start or whether he's ready to join the Yankees. Before Clemens' outing, Billy Connors, the Yankees' vice president of player personnel, said he would confer with general manager Brian Cashman at the end of the game before making a final decision.

When it was over, Clemens said he didn't know where his next outing would take place.

"I really can't answer that," he said. "I don't really know what's going to happen."

If Clemens doesn't need another Minor League start, he could be part of a fascinating scenario -- pitching against the Red Sox this weekend at Fenway Park. He could also make his first Yankees start during their four-game series against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field from June 4-7.

He could also require one more Minor League appearance if the Yankees believe that's what is best.

"My arm feels great," Clemens said. "I'll have, hopefully, normal soreness tomorrow and go from there. I don't know what else to tell y'all."

In his previous Minor League start for Double-A Trenton on Wednesday, Clemens threw 102 pitches, 64 for strikes, and gave up six hits, three runs, struck out five and walked four in 5 1/3 innings. In Clemens' initial start for Class A Tampa, he surrendered one hit and one run in four innings.

The 11-time All-Star and seven-time Cy Young Award winner signed a one-year, pro-rated $28 million contract on May 6. Clemens, who is 348-178 with a 3.10 ERA in 23 seasons, previously pitched for the Yankees from 1999-2003.

Clemens donned the familiar No. 22 thanks to first baseman Eric Duncan, who gladly switched to No. 5.

"It was an honor to give my number to Roger, a Hall of Fame pitcher," Duncan said. "It's as simple as that. I just knew I had to do it. I don't want anything for it. I wouldn't even know what to ask for. I don't need anything. It was a privilege to play on the same field as Roger. I'll settle for a handshake and leave it at that. It's a day I'll remember, that's for sure."

So will center fielder Kevin Thompson.

"You can feel the buzz in the ballpark when a day is special like this," Thompson said. "The fans were excited and wanted to see Roger up close. It's cool for us, too, because we get to be a part of it. The stands were packed long before the game started. Roger wants to win and understands the importance of us trying to get as many wins as possible."

Having Raul Chavez behind the plate helped the Yankees get the win on this day.

"It was great to see Chavez back there," Clemens said. "He caught a handful of my games in Houston. He knows what he's doing back there. It was good to see a familiar face."

The excitable crowd, which included at least 1,000 fans who purchased standing-room tickets, wanted to see an unfamiliar face in person -- Clemens. There were even a handful of people situated high above the hills way beyond right field. They were sitting on a railing outside the Cinemark movie complex to catch a glimpse of Clemens.

Inside the ballpark, Clemens merchandise was selling incredibly fast. Before the game, the line was more than 30 deep to just get into the store to buy the items.

One woman said she drove three hours to watch Clemens in person.

"No way was I missing this," she said, declining to give her name. "I have a Clemens shirt on and I want at least two more. He's the greatest I've ever seen."

No matter when he returns, the Yankees will be happy.

"We need him back," Connors said. "I think he's physically and mentally prepared."

You have to be in order to compete in a remarkable 24th season.

"I've been blessed," Clemens said. "This is my 24th year and I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity."

Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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