Ex-Jays defend Rocket

Pat Hentgen (left), Roger Clemens and Juan Guzman were key members of the Blue Jays' starting...

Pat Hentgen (left), Roger Clemens and Juan Guzman were key members of the Blue Jays' starting rotation in 1997. Hentgen doesn't believe Clemens took steroids, saying he was just that good. SUN MEDIA FILE/Michael Peake

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:28 AM ET

Whom do you believe?

Roger Clemens, the former Blue Jays right-hander, who says he never took performance-enhancing drugs?

Or Brian McNamee, the ex-Jays strength coach, who told Mitchell Report investigators that he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998?

"If you had the choice to line up on one side or the other, I'd join Clemens," said former catcher Darrin Fletcher, who caught Clemens during his Cy Young award-winning season in 1988. "When Roger goes on 60 Minutes and says he didn't do it, I believe him. He's behaving like an innocent man."

Clemens has launched a civil suit against McNamee.

Jays president Paul Beeston brought free-agent Clemens to Toronto for the 1997 season. After going 21-7 with a 2.05 earned-run average in 1997, Clemens went 20-6 with a 2.65 ERA, the next season, Fletcher's first with the Jays.

"Roger is the epitome of pitching, it's in his soul," Fletcher said. "I never saw anyone as into his craft as Roger, he was so enthralled with pitching."

GOING WITH HIS GUT

And what if Fletcher's gut feel is wrong?

"If it comes out 20 years from now he did something, I'd still place him on the highest pedestal, I would not think anything less of him," Fletcher said.

"We don't think anything less today of Andy Pettitte today, do we?"

Pettitte admitted taking HGH from McNamee when the left-hander was rehabbing in Tampa from an elbow injury.

And the tour of seven 1998 Jays continues, Clemens teammates one and all.

All were put through their paces by McNamee, one and all.

"Roger's seasons in Toronto were the two best I ever saw from a pitcher, I don't need to question him," Pat Hentgen said. "I was his throwing partner, I know him a little.

"It's very unfortunate it has come to this."

Former left fielder Shannon Stewart watched the Mike Wallace interview and the playing of the Clemens-McNamee tape.

"It has been wild TV, one saying 'he did something,' the other saying he 'didn't do a thing,' " Stewart said.

"I think you're innocent until you're proven guilty and Roger said he didn't take steroids.

"I don't know how they're going to prove anything, but it will be the real deal when they get before Congress."

Chuck Knoblauch, Pettitte and Clemens, have been called to testify before the House Oversight Committee Feb. 13 at a hearing on the Mitchell Report.

Paul Quantrill and Clemens were teammates for five seasons, three with the Boston Red Sox and two with the Jays.

"I know the character of both men involved," Quantrill said.

"Roger is a person I trust. I felt that way before the Mitchell Report or the press conference in Houston."

One player refused comment as his current club had a policy of not allowing players or employees to comment on the Mitchell Report.

Another did not want his name used but said: "I faced Roger when he was in Boston, I played behind Roger," the ex-Jay said. "Roger sounded believable on 60 Minutes and at his press conference. I never saw a steroid until I left Toronto.

"I'm not really sure what the Mitchell Report accomplished. Baseball had a drug plan in place. It was working. Players were being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs.

"Why throw a bunch of guys' reputations under the bus? To satisfy Congress?"

Another player said Clemens was seen more often working out either on a Stairmaster, in the weight room, or running rather than sitting in the clubhouse.

One player refused to comment or side with either.

Fletcher said he never saw steroids in the SkyDome clubhouse.

"The only thing they would have got me for was if they tested for Timbits and a double-double," Fletcher said jokingly. "I was guilty of that. I'm glad they didn't test us for that.

"Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts were irresistible."


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