Defense brings out Clemens-friendly testimony
Former teammate O'Brien says there were B12 shots in Toronto
WASHINGTON -- In an appearance that had its light moments but ended up being germane to the case, former Major League catcher Charlie O'Brien testified Wednesday that vitamin B12 shots were made readily available to players in Toronto, supporting a claim made by Roger Clemens that is a key element in Clemens' federal perjury trial.Later in a day highlighted by testimony from three well-known baseball figures, Darrin Fletcher -- another former catcher who played with Clemens in Toronto -- said that he didn't see Clemens at a party at Jose Canseco's house in 1998, and related a vague recollection about talking to McNamee about B12, possibly thinking McNamee was offering to inject him with it. The day ended with Phil Garner, former Major League infielder and Clemens' manager in Houston, on the stand only long enough to explain his "Scrap Iron" nickname, and he'll be on the stand when court reconvenes Thursday, the final day of proceedings for the week. Wednesday's testimony was loaded with baseball insight and references to fungoes, scuffed baseballs, split-finger fastballs and catcher's signs -- as well as a couple of instances of more jocularity than the prosecutors would have liked. But it was the statement from O'Brien about B12 shots that hit squarely on part of the charges against Clemens. Act 8 of the 13 acts that remain in the obstruction of Congress charge against Clemens -- acts the government says were meant to influence, obstruct and impede an ongoing investigation -- was one in which Clemens told Congressional staffers in a deposition while under oath that "four or five needles" containing B12 would be "already lined up ready to go" in the trainers' room after games. Although several trainers for teams Clemens played for, including Toronto's Tommy Craig, disputed that notion in testimony during the prosecution's case, an exchange between defense attorney Rusty Hardin and O'Brien contradicted the earlier assertions. Hardin asked O'Brien whether syringes preloaded with liquid B12 "lined up and ready to go?" "Yes," O'Brien said. "Are you certain of that?" Hardin said. "Positive," O'Brien said. Later, Garner became the sixth witness with Major League playing credentials to take the stand at the trial, as the defense's case, in its first full day of presentations, continued to build up accounts of Clemens' work ethic and talent being the reasons for his success over 24 years in the Majors. Clemens, who won the fourth and fifth of his record seven Cy Young Awards while pitching to O'Brien in 1997 and Fletcher in '98, is charged with three counts of making false statements, two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of Congress based on his testimony during a Feb. 13, 2008, hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a Feb. 5, 2008, deposition conducted by committee staff members. On Tuesday, when the prosecution rested its case, Judge Reggie Walton granted a defense motion to dismiss two of the so-called obstructive acts of the original 15 in the indictment of Clemens. The government needs to prove just one of the acts to gain a conviction on the count. McNamee testified before Congress and at this trial that he injected Clemens with steroids and human-growth hormone in 1998, 2000 and 2001, but never vitamin B12 or lidocaine, which are the substances Clemens testified McNamee injected into him. O'Brien was the fourth of six witnesses called by the defense, all of whom have been friends of Clemens, building the career timeline of how the former pitcher rose from an "average" high school player to a college star to one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues with a work ethic each has said was the best they'd ever seen. Things are about to get a lot less friendly, however, as the defense makes plans to call Eileen Taylor-McNamee, McNamee's estranged wife. Her testimony will be used by the defense to elicit information that would attack not only McNamee's credibility and character, but also the credibility of the physical evidence central to the case -- which McNamee stored in their "marital home," as McNamee referred to it during his testimony, for more than six years. The two legal sides, along with Taylor-McNamee's attorney, will decide the parameters of her testimony Thursday morning. "We are really talking about impeaching [McNamee] with things he said in cross that [Walton] allowed us to go into," Hardin said, mentioning alcoholism and drug use. As the trial continued its 25th day of proceedings and 20th day of testimony, O'Brien said he used B12 with the Braves and Mets prior to being administered it by Dr. Ron Taylor, the Blue Jays' team physician at the time. Taylor, now a consulting physician for the team, was a Major League pitcher from 1962-72. O'Brien caught four Cy Young winners in a row -- Greg Maddux with Atlanta in 1994 and '95, Pat Hentgen with Toronto in '96 and then Clemens in '97. He testified that Clemens' development of a split-finger fastball was key to his continued dominance on the mound, and that catching Clemens' 16-strikeout performance on July 12, 1997, in his return to Fenway Park after the Red Sox hadn't re-signed him, was the "most memorable game I've ever caught." He also said Clemens wouldn't use baseballs that were scuffed, intentionally by O'Brien or otherwise, because he didn't need the help. O'Brien cracked up many in the courtroom when describing meeting up with Clemens again in 2000, saying what he really remembered about that series was how "El Duque" dominated him in his second-to-last game as a Major Leaguer. Asked to explain who "El Duque" was, O'Brien couldn't come up with Orlando Hernandez's actual name. "What is his name, Roger?" O'Brien asked. Earlier in the day, longtime friend Mike Capel, a former University of Texas teammate of Clemens who went on to appear in 49 games over parts of three seasons in the Majors, and former Red Sox traveling secretary and assistant general manager Steve August gave their accounts of how hard-working Clemens was during different points of his career. At one point of cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gilberto Guerrero, he asked each witness if their opinion of that work ethic included that Clemens "ate Vioxx like Skittles," as Clemens testified before Congress about the now unavailable pain medication, or that he had admitted to use of ephedra, a now-banned stimulant, or that he admitted that a strength coach injected him with B12 or lidocaine. Every witness said that was not part of their opinion about Clemens. When Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham asked O'Brien about Clemens eating Vioxx like Skittles, O'Brien said he didn't know what Vioxx was but took Napercin, another anti-inflammatory medication, like Skittles. Durham then asked if it said on the prescription bottle to "eat like Skittles." "M and M's, maybe. I don't like Skittles," O'Brien responded, prompting Durham to remind him of the seriousness of the proceedings. Most of the rest of the day's testimony was a bit more serious, although Fletcher made a crack when, in asking about the Canseco party, Hardin asked if he'd ever seen Clemens in a bathing suit. "I've always wanted to see Roger Clemens in a bathing suit," Fletcher said with a smile. More to the point, Fletcher testified he didn't see Clemens at the party. He didn't see McNamee, either, and McNamee said he was there and saw Clemens and Canseco talking to each other, part of his timeline for when he first gave Clemens a "booty shot" of steroids. Prosecution witness Alexander Lowrey, who was 11 years old at the time, testified earlier that he'd seen Clemens there -- and the prosecution showed them in a photo together with Clemens in the pool and Lowrey on the deck. Clemens saying he wasn't at the party is Act 15 on the obstruction charge. Fletcher's testimony that he'd had a discussion with McNamee about B12 became the main subject of Guerrero's cross-examination, as the prosecutor tried to show that Fletcher's recollection was vague at best. "I'm more sure about the topic coming up than whether or not it was to go get a B12 shot or he was going to give me B12," Fletcher eventually conceded. Earlier, Capel explained why he was shocked about allegations of PED use by Clemens, based on his longtime knowledge of Clemens. "It would really, really surprise me with him doing anything like that, knowing what the end results of that would be," Capel said.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.