He brought a positive attitude each day, almost as if the hitless streak to start his MLB career didn’t bother him. The 26-year-old surely wanted to get his first hit out of the way, but he refused to press for results.
Instead, Clemens trusted the process.
“His approach the game is pretty refreshing,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Monday, ahead of the Tigers’ series opener against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park.
Clemens received a rare start at second base — his natural position — against the White Sox on Monday, giving everyday second baseman Jonathan Schoop a break amid a 3-for-26 (.115) stretch over his past seven games.
In the second inning, Clemens stepped into the batter’s box for his first plate appearance against White Sox right-hander Lance Lynn. He hit a second-pitch sinker on the ground and into right field for a single.
Finally, he notched his first MLB hit.
Clemens debuted May 31 in the second game of a doubleheader and drew a walk in his second plate appearance. Until Monday’s second inning, he hadn’t reached base safely since his first game.
“My mind is completely fine,” Clemens said before Monday’s game. “I think there would be a lot of other people that would be freaking out. At the same time, it hasn’t really fazed me. Trust me, everybody goes through ups and downs in their career. Unfortunately, this is my beginning.”
Entering Monday, Clemens was 0-for-17 with one walk and four strikeouts in nine games. He entered his past two games as a pinch-hitter: Friday and Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Clemens is putting the ball in play and has avoided an abundance of strikeouts, but he often pops out with weak contact. His average exit velocity is 89.1 mph; his maximum exit velocity is 99.7 mph.
“The game is hard,” Clemens said. “I’ve learned to fail my whole life. This is nothing new. Obviously, I’m trying to get out of the dip as quick as possible. I’m keeping my head up and knowing I’m good enough to play here. Just keep putting your head down and grinding and the bad days will stop.”
Clemens, before joining the Tigers, played 45 games for Triple-A Toledo this season, hitting .283 (52-for-184) with nine doubles, six triples, eight home runs, 31 RBIs, 10 walks and 52 strikeouts.
He is the son of Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young winner.
“I’ve been strong mentally my whole life,” Clemens said. “I’ve been through a ton of bad things in my life, good things in my life, on and off the field. Just being mentally strong, you have to be that. If you ever doubt yourself, you’re going to fail no matter what.”
“We’re all rooting for him,” Hinch said.