Yankees' Pettitte: I may have misunderstood Clemens

WASHINGTON Wed May 2, 2012 10:59am EDT

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WASHINGTON May 2 (Reuters) - New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte testified on Wednesday in Roger Clemens' federal perjury trial that there was a 50-50 chance he had misheard his friend and former teammate say he used human growth hormone.

In a second day of cross-examination by the defense, Pettitte said he might have misunderstood Clemens when the ace pitcher told him in 1999 or 2000 that he had used human growth hormone to recover from injury.

Years later, Clemens told Pettitte he had been referring to his wife Debbie's use of the drug during the conversation.

"As you sit here today, if you think about it in your own mind, it's 50-50. You might have heard it, or you might have misunderstood him. Is that fair?" defense attorney Mike Attanasio asked.

"I'd say that's fair," Pettitte said.

He also said he had not told Clemens about being injected with human growth hormone in 2002 and injecting himself with the drug in 2004, both times to deal with injuries.

Clemens was not present at the injections, he said.

Pettitte's testimony is considered crucial to the government's case since he has nothing to gain by testifying against his friend and former teammate and has not deviated on what Clemens allegedly told him.

Clemens, 49, is being tried for a second time on federal charges of lying to the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about whether he used anabolic steroids and human growth hormone

The panel was investigating drug use in Major League baseball. Clemens, a seven-time winner of the Cy Young award, baseball's highest annual honor for a pitcher, is among the biggest baseball names linked to alleged drug use.

In a setback for the defense, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled that Clemens' lawyers could not touch on why his former trainer, Brian McNamee, had been fired from the Yankees in 2001. McNamee was fired for lying to investigators in connection with a Florida rape case but continued to work with Clemens and Pettitte as a private trainer.

Walton said he had already ruled that the "nature of the underlying conduct is not admissible."

Although Pettitte had told congressional investigators that McNamee injected him with human growth hormone, the judge blocked similar testimony at the trial on Tuesday, ruling it could be prejudicial to Clemens' defense. On Tuesday Pettitte was allowed to testify that he received injections but did not say from whom.

Pettitte has come out of retirement to bolster the Yankees' pitching staff and is playing his way back into shape with a Yankee farm club. (Editing by Paul Thomasch and Mohammad Zargham)

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