After throwing to hitters in a simulated game here this afternoon, Matt Clement has only one step to go in his nearly year-long recovery from shoulder surgery. The only thing left is to pitch in a game, assuming he bounces back from today's session in which he threw 20 pitches to batters Brandon Moss and Kevin Cash, after throwing about 35 pitches in the bullpen and another 8 warmup tosses.
"I'd love to pitch,'' Clement said. "I'd love to be a part of this great thing that is going on here. If I could get one out that was meaningful in September, that would be great for me.''
But he is realistic about the possibility that might not happen, and said he is prepared for the possibility he may not get beyond throwing simulated games or perhaps in an instructional league game in Florida. For now, the plan is for him to throw a bullpen session this weekend, then another simulated game after the Sox return home next week from a weekend excursion to Baltimore.
He is only 11-months-plus into a recovery process that usually takes a full year, and is respectful of that. But the joy in Clement's face was palpable as hs discussed his outing. "I'm almost in shock how good I felt,'' he said.
He also was touched, he said, by the show of support he got from his teammates. Most of the pitching staff came out to watch him, and Josh Beckett came out to where he was warming up in the bullpen. Terry Francona and Theo Epstein also watched.
"It may look like small steps to us,'' Francona said, "but it was a huge step for him.''