Clemens said he was confident that he would pitch again this season -- that he wouldn't, in fact, miss much time at all. The 45-year-old right-hander pitched only four innings in his Monday start before leaving the game with right elbow discomfort. Yankees manager Joe Torre said that the team had yet to discuss its immediate plans, but that Mike Mussina -- who pitched 3 2/3 innings in relief of Clemens on Monday -- would likely start in his place on Sunday in Kansas City.
The elbow had been bothering Clemens even before his start, but he didn't indicate that the pain was anything more than normal wear and tear for a pitcher. Yet blisters on his right foot caused Clemens to compensate his delivery and may have put additional strain on his elbow.
"My foot's been on fire," Clemens said of his past three outings. "It's been bleeding, and we've dealt with it. When I have leg problems, I'm in trouble."
In 17 outings this year, Clemens is 6-6 with a 4.45 ERA. His prorated contract runs through the end of this season, at which point he'll be forced to consider his future. Clemens didn't rule out the possibility of surgery at season's end, but at the same time, he said that he thought that the cortisone shot would be enough to get him through the season.
The Yankees will re-evaluate Clemens when he returns to the team and determine to what extent he'll be able to help them. Torre said he didn't envision Clemens missing more than one start.
"I'm not looking for a hero," Torre said. "I'm looking for somebody who's going to be able to do the job."
Clemens has been bothered on and off by elbow pain throughout this season, and even last year with Houston. Yet until now, he hadn't seriously compromised his ability to pitch effectively.
That changed on Monday. Clemens allowed eight hits and five runs in just four innings and said that he particularly noticed the difference when he hit Jose Lopez with a two-seam fastball that missed its spot by about a foot and a half.
"The muscles and everything else were just basically shutting down," Clemens said, "and grabbing hold of my arm."
Clemens may take tips from Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, who has dealt with similar elbow problems throughout his career. Pettitte had a cortisone shot in his elbow last year and didn't miss a start.
Clemens will receive the cortisone in Houston from Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff, the Astros team physician who treated Pettitte last season.
"He's never had anything with his elbow, really," Pettitte said. "I just know that what he's done is the exact same spot. I'm just telling him some of the things that I've done to get me through the years. It's a lot of ice, a lot of hot tank, cold tank -- living in it. Obviously when you have an injury in your elbow, fluid gets built up in there. The way to make it better is to get fluid out of the joint. If you ice it and heat it back up, it moves stuff around and helps you take your turn on the mound."
Mussina should occupy Sunday's now-vacant slot in the rotation, one week after losing his own spot to rookie Ian Kennedy. Mussina allowed two runs in relief of Clemens on Sunday, and he has posted a 6.93 ERA since the All-Star break.
Clemens viewed the substitution as temporary. He said there was no doubt that he would pitch again this year, and Torre hinted that he could rejoin the rotation after missing just one start.
"I'm committed here," Clemens said. I'm not running out on these guys now."