Roger Clemens made his Indians debut on Wednesday, tossing an easy fastball along the inside of the plate.
Then the former big league pitcher smiled and waved to the crowd. He walked back to the Spokane dugout to shake a couple of the Indians’ hands before a finding his seat in the stands.
Clemens made a surprise visit to Spokane this week and tossed out the first pitch before watching his son, Kacy, play for the Vancouver Canadians at Avista Stadium on Wednesday. Kacy, who played infield for the Texas Longhorns, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays – Vancouver’s parent team – in the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft.
“It was the first time I got to watch him as a professional, so he’s buying lunch,” Clemens said.
The 54-year-old said he is most proud of his son’s business degree that Kacy earned while playing at Texas, but Clemens is also proud of his son’s journey to professional baseball.
Kacy said much of his accomplishments on the field were because of his dad, who has been his biggest teacher throughout his baseball career.
“He definitely mastered this game, so it’s fun to get to learn from somebody like that,” Kacy said of his dad. “He faced the best hitters ever. Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, players like that so he learned tips along the way from them.
“Just learning the game, the ins and outs of pro ball, I couldn’t have somebody better on my side to learn from,” Kacy said.
Clemens spent 24 seasons in the major leagues, beginning with a 13-year stint with the Boston Red Sox that started in 1984. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner helped the New York Yankees to two World Series wins in 1999 and 2000.
“You’re talking about, arguably, one of the top four or five guys ever. It’s pretty neat to have him here tonight,” Indians manager Matt Hagen said.
It was especially exciting for a few of the Indians players who grew up watching the “Rocket” play for the Yankees or for the Houston Astros later on in Clemens’ career.
“It was pretty cool for them to see him and shake his hand in the corner of the dugout,” Hagen said.
Unfortunately, the Indians didn’t exactly stun the big-league legend, as the Indians committed four errors and fell 3-2 to Vancouver, which swept Spokane in the two-game series.
The struggles began right out of the gate. The Indians (7-14) committed three errors in the first inning, allowing two runs before right-handed pitcher Tyler Phillips finally put an end to the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
Vancouver’s Cullen Large led off with a base hit to second, and Kole Enright overthrew the toss to first, sending the ball into the Spokane dugout. Large advanced to second base on the error.
Large eventually scored on another error in which Philips missed a toss from first baseman Curtis Terry covering first on Brock Lundquist’s grounder.
Lunquist moved to second on a hit and stole third on a called third strike to Kacy Clemens. Novoa’s throw was in the dirt – Spokane’s third error of the inning – and Lunquist trotted home on the error, giving the Canadians a quick 2-0 lead.
“Our defense has been so good all season, but the last three games we’ve had multiple error games,” Hagen said. “I don’t what that’s all about. I don’t know if it’s just a lack of focus early in the game.”
Vancouver (14-7) scored again in the third inning after Riley Adams doubled home Large, who reached on a walk.
The Indians finally got on the board in the fifth inning on Melvin Novoa’s long home run over the right-field fence. The homer narrowed Vancouver’s lead to 3-1.
Spokane’s Clay Middleton sent another pitch out of the park in the seventh inning to make it a one-run game.
Phillips finished six innings with six strikeouts, a walk and three runs – one earned. Left-handed reliever Lucas Jacobsen, who made his Indians’ debut after being pulled up from the Texas Rangers’ rookie league in Arizona, followed Phillips with a pair of strikeouts and one walk in 1 1/3 innings.
“It was exciting,” said Jacobsen, who was a 27th round for the Rangers in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft. Jacobsen flew into Spokane on Wednesday morning with three other pitchers, all selected in the 2017 draft.
Despite not having pitched in front of such a large crowd in a while, Jacobsen said he was pleased with his first outing.
“Being tired from that plane ride helped control my nerves a little bit,” Jacobsen said. “I controlled myself pretty well. I just made sure to breathe.”
Spokane outhit the Canadians 7-4. Novoa and Middleton led the Indians with a pair of hits apiece, including a double by Novoa in the seventh inning.
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