Is Roger Clemens returning to the major leagues?

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Is Roger Clemens returning to the major leagues?

From Comcast SportsNet
SUGAR LAND, Texas (AP) -- Hours after Roger Clemens agreed to join the Sugar Land Skeeters, he was back on the field playing in an over-50 softball league. And the ultra-competitive Clemens, now a half-century old, was quick to point out just how well he did against that group of geezers. "I hit two homers, by the way," he said. Things will be a bit tougher on Saturday when he is scheduled to start for the independent Atlantic League team at home against Bridgeport. The right-hander agreed to play for the team on Monday and was introduced on Tuesday. Whether this all leads to Clemens pitching in the major leagues -- the seven-time Cy Young Award winner played that down, conceding he's nowhere near big league pitching shape. "I'm 50 years old. We're just going to go out and have fun with this and make it fun for the fans," said Clemens, who has a touch of gray stubble on his chin but still sports a shock of blond highlights in his hair. Clemens didn't understand all the rules of his old-man softball league at first. When he hit his first home run and dashed to first base, his teammates told him to stop. He thought it was because home runs weren't allowed. It turned out that the over-50 set doesn't see the need to run all of the bases on a homer. "I really play in that league for the exercise and the fun," he said. He laughed off questions about playing professionally at an age when he qualifies for an AARP card. "I hope nothing breaks and I hope I don't pull anything," a still fit-looking Clemens said. Some believe his return to the minor leagues is the first step to another comeback in the major leagues, where he last pitched for the New York Yankees in 2007 at age 45. Clemens is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going to voters late this year. If he plays in a major league game this year, his Hall consideration would be pushed back five years. He isn't sure how he'll be perceived by voters when his name appears on the ballot. "Sure, the Hall of Fame is great, I've told people that. But it's not going to change my life either way," he said. "But if there's something there that somebody feels like they have a grudge or want to hold something against you, I can't control that one bit." Clemens said thinking about a big league comeback is premature. He dismissed the theory that the minor league appearance was a step on the path to a big league return. "I've been to the major leagues and back a couple of times," he said. "I've retired and unretired, so I wouldn't consider thinking that far ahead. I'm just going to try to get through Saturday. I think I can compete a little bit." A return at his age wouldn't be all that outlandish, considering that Jamie Moyer returned from elbow ligament replacement surgery to start for the Colorado Rockies this season. Clemens chuckled when asked about Moyer. "People are trying to ingrain that in my mind that 50 is now the new 40," he said. "But I'm not buying it because I'm still having to pack myself in a lot of ice." He says he talks to new Houston Astros owner Jim Crane often but that he has not talked about pitching for the Astros and that he doesn't see that happening. He isn't committing to playing more than one game for the Skeeters, who play in a Houston suburb, saying he wants to see how Saturday goes first. Clemens was accused by former personal trainer Brian McNamee in the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball of using steroids and HGH, allegations Clemens denied before Congress. The Justice Department began an investigation concerning whether Clemens had lied under oath, and in 2010 a grand jury indicted him on two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing Congress. He was acquitted of all the charges on June 19 after a 10-week trial and has largely stayed out of the public spotlight until now. He's glad to be talking about baseball again instead of that difficult chapter in his life. "Everybody has their own opinion and they dwell on that so much," he said. "In between all of that, handling that business up there and doing what was right for me and my family and taking that head on, I was still doing the work that I've always done. So it wasn't gloomy or depressing." Clemens had two great seasons with the Astros after he turned 40, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 2004 to win his record seventh Cy Young Award. He was 13-8 with a career-low 1.87 ERA in 2005. Tal Smith, a longtime former Astros executive who is now a special advisor to the Skeeters, is one person who wouldn't be surprised if Clemens made a comeback in the majors. "Knowing Roger and how competitive he is and what great shape he is in, and the fact that Jamie Moyer pitched close to 50 and Nolan Ryan pitched well into his late 40s, if anybody can do it, Roger Clemens can do it," he said. Clemens earned about 160 million and won 354 games in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros. His 4,672 strikeouts are third-most and he was named to 11 All-Star games. Now he will see what he has left for the Skeeters that have a roster which includes former major league pitchers Tim Redding and Scott Kazmir and Jason Lane, a teammate of Clemens' on Houston's 2005 World Series team. Smith believes this is a great opportunity for Clemens and he thinks it could change some opinions as a possible Hall of Fame vote approaches. "I hope this helps," Smith said. "I think voters should remember that he's been acquitted of all charged and that he never tested positive. I hope this story dies down in future years." Clemens and Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti have been talking about this since April. But he received another push toward the field early this summer when he visited Dr. James Andrews in Florida for a checkup. "He said: The MRI looked great. Your shoulder looks like you're 30. You should go pitch -- just kidding,'" Clemens said Andrews told him. It was then that he started thinking he could actually play for the Skeeters. After throwing for the team on Monday, where his fastball was clocked at 87, the multimillionaire got himself a new gig. "We're going to have fun with this and see if I can get through a few innings without Gary having to go to the bullpen, and we'll see where it goes from there," Clemens said. Smith takes issue with those who think this is simply a media stunt. He said that the Skeeters regularly sell out Saturday night games and that there were only 500 tickets available for this Saturday's game before Clemens was signed. "I can understand why he's doing it," Smith said. "He loves baseball. He love the competition. Baseball has been his life and there's no reason he shouldn't try to continue it. If he's successful it just adds to his legend, and if he's not, it was fun."

Raiders erase deficit against Bills for another comeback win

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AP

Raiders erase deficit against Bills for another comeback win

BOX SCORE

Once again, Derek Carr and the Raiders came alive late with 29 unanswered points to take down the Bills on their home turf Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum. 

After it looked like the Raiders were bound for a loss with the Bills up 24-9, Oakland extended their win streak to six straight, with a 38-24 victory. 

Carr tossed for 260 yards and two touchdowns as both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree crossed the goaline. He also finished the day without an interception. 

Latavius Murray led the Raiders on the ground with 82 yards and two touchdowns. Murray became just the third Raiders running back to score at least 10 touchdowns in one season. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Khalil Mack yet again came up with a huge day. The star edge rusher caused an interception with a tipped pass and a came away with a strip-sack fumble on Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, which he recovered himself.

The Raiders improved to 10-2 on the season, keeping their lead in the AFC West. Oakland leads the Chiefs (9-3) by one game in the division. 

49ers display lack of poise in ugly loss to Bears

49ers display lack of poise in ugly loss to Bears

CHICAGO – The 49ers celebrated like they had just scored a touchdown and taken a lead in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

But they did not score. And the ensuring premature celebration probably ended up preventing the 49ers from their best opportunity to get into the end zone, period.

Dontae Johnson scooped up a punt Shaun Draughn deflected off the foot of Bears punter Pat O’Donnell. Johnson returned it 25 yards and was ruled to have stepped out of bounds at the 4-yard line.

But Johnson, thinking he had scored, did a snow angel at the back of the end zone. Rookie Rashard Robinson also got on his back and did the same thing. Referee Pete Morelli's crew flagged Robinson for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“They understand the rules of the game,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said of his players. “Dontae is allowed to do whatever. He is just celebrating. But I don’t think he can go to the ground, so it’s just going to be a single-person celebration and you can’t use any props.

“We go over all of this and (it’s) not a disciplined play by us and we will re-emphasize what we have to do in terms of discipline and poise. Play with emotion and not let emotion play us. I like when guys have emotion, but not when it jeopardizes us.”

Kelly added, “I know our coordinators do a really good job of showing things that happen around the league so we learn from other people, and we will really emphasize that again this week.”

On the question of whether Johnson was truly out of bounds, a play in which a ballcarrier is ruled down by contact or out of bounds (not involving fumbles or the line to gain) is not reviewable.

Robinson’s penalty moved the 49ers back to the 19-yard line. Carlos Hyde was stopped for a 1-yard loss; Hyde gained 3 yards; and Colin Kaepernick completed a 4-yard pass to Vance McDonald on a third-and-8 play. Phil Dawson kicked a 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

The snowy conditions were in stark contrast to the mid-80s temperatures in which the 49ers trained during the week in Orlando, Fla. Kelly downplayed the possibility that the team’s stop to prepare at the University of Central Florida had a negative impact on the 49ers’ inability to function in the cold weather.

"It's not like we could have practiced in Saskatchewan,” Kelly said.

“That’s got nothing to do with it,” said 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who replaced starter Colin Kaepernick in the fourth quarter. “We’re professionals. Rain, sleet, sun, cloudy weather, freezing cold, 90 degrees — that has no effect on how we approach and how we get ready to play a football game.”

The 49ers have lost 11 consecutive games. This might have been the club’s worst showing, yet. Although some players were heard cursing as they entered the locker room after the game, others were seen laughing and taking things lightly in the locker room and in the food line before boarding buses for the airport.

“You have to play for pride, man,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “You got to play in the NFL. You got to play for pride. Play for your job. This is a situation that none of us want to be in. If you have pride in what you do, that’s going to carry you through the last four games.”