WASHINGTON (AP) – Defense attorneys used a former baseball manager and a massage therapist to argue that Roger Clemens didn’t change much physically late in his career, as they try to undercut the government’s case that the pitcher turned to performance-enhancing drugs to prolong his time in the big leagues.
The massage therapist, Cheryl Redfern, who treated Clemens from 1995 to 2003, testified Thursday that she never saw acne on Clemens’ body or noticed any changes in his upper body — two possible byproducts of steroid use.
In his 40s, when most players are retired, Clemens continued to pitch at a high level, especially with the Houston Astros from 2004-2006. His manager during most of that time, Phil Garner, said the pitcher’s performance didn’t change over those years.
But the numbers don’t support that: In Clemens’ first year with Houston, he won his seventh Cy Young Award and posted an excellent 2.98 earned run average. In his second year with Houston, when Clemens turned 43, his ERA dropped by more than a run, to an extraordinarily good 1.87.
Clemens is charged with lying to Congress in 2008 when he said he never took steroids or human growth hormone. His lawyers are trying to demonstrate that Clemens used smarts and hard work — not performance-enhancing drugs — to post age-defying numbers.
Garner became the latest in a string of witnesses to speak glowingly of Clemens’ leadership and work ethic.
“Ever see Roger Clemens cut corners?” Clemens’ lawyer Rusty Hardin asked.
“Never did,” Garner replied.
He said that Clemens continued to have success even after losing about 5 mph off his fastball as he aged.
“He didn’t just overpower teams; he outsmarted teams,” he said. “He wasn’t as domineering as he was earlier.”
The claim that Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs is supported firsthand by only one witness, Clemens’ former strength coach, Brian McNamee. To counter McNamee, the defense has called friends and associates of Clemens from high school, college and his years with the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and now the Astros.
During Garner’s first spring training with the Astros in 2005, he recalled seeing Clemens at the ballpark at 7:30 a.m. working out in a heavy flak jacket, then going for a run before returning outside after lunch for some “PFP” (pitchers’ fielding practice). Garner thought it all “totally weird” because Clemens was supposed to pitch that day.
“Rocket, what in the world are you doing?” Garner asked.
“Skip, I’m trying to get my legs as tired as possible so it’s like it’s the ninth inning when I’m out there today,” Clemens replied, according to Garner.
Garner also spoke about an area at the end of the Astros dugout called “Rocket Hole,” where Clemens kept bananas and Gatorade to recover between innings. During one game, Garner said he turned and saw Clemens pacing and yelling at himself, “What is going on? Are you going to pitch tonight or are you not going to pitch tonight? Are you going to get anybody out tonight?”
Another defense witness, Houston orthopedic surgeon Larry Likover, a longtime friend of the Clemens family, testified he used to give the painkiller Vioxx to Clemens. Clemens has said he used to eat “Vioxx like it was Skittles,” a statement the government has used to imply that Clemens would have no aversion to abusing drugs to remain competitive.
Reinforcing that point, Durham asked Likover if the doctor would ever put “Eat like Skittles” on a Vioxx prescription. Likover said no.
The doctor also said that he would inject Clemens with vitamin B12 when the pitcher needed a boost. Prosecutors say that Clemens’ claim that he had received B12 injection from McNamee was a cover for steroids.
Also appearing for the defense was the woman who used to clean Clemens’ New York City apartment when he played for the Yankees — she happened to be there on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The woman said she never saw needles or vials in the apartment during the half-dozen or so times she cleaned the place, but under cross-examination, she said she didn’t look through Clemens’ personal things and was never there at night.
McNamee has testified that he injected Clemens with steroids at the apartment during the 2001 baseball season.
The trial is in recess Friday because of a juror’s schedule conflict.
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