WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The New York Yankees’ general manager testified at ex-pitching ace Roger Clemens perjury trial on Thursday that he opposed hiring the trainer who later alleged he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs.
General Manager Brian Cashman said a “frustrated” Clemens, his injured right leg iced up, asked that the Yankees sign trainer Brian McNamee after he had bombed out of a 1999 American League playoff game.
Outlining McNamee’s seesaw career with the Yankees, Cashman said the team’s late owner George Steinbrenner agreed to the star pitcher’s request. McNamee was taken on as an assistant strength coach in 2000 to work with Clemens, who agreed to pay his $30,000-a-season salary.
“I didn’t think we had the need to hire Brian McNamee,” Cashman said in U.S. District Court.
McNamee, who is central to charges that Clemens lied to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs, had worked for Yankees in the early 1990s as a bullpen catcher and pitcher. He then went to the Toronto Blue Jays as strength coach, where he met Clemens.
Moving up from warmup catcher with the Yankees “was a pretty big leap,” Cashman said, but Clemens “clicked with Brian McNamee.”
McNamee has alleged he injected Clemens with anabolic steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and human growth hormone in 2001. Clemens’ lawyers have labeled McNamee a liar.
Clemens is being tried for a second time on federal charges of lying to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2008 about whether he used performance-enhancing drugs. His first trial ended in a mistrial last year.
Clemens, a record seven-time winner of the Cy Young Award, baseball’s highest annual honor for a pitcher, is among the game’s biggest names linked to alleged drug use.
Cashman said Clemens made his locker room plea to hire McNamee while the third game of the 1999 American League play-offs between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox was still going on at Fenway Park.
Clemens had started for the Yankees but left in the third inning after giving up six runs and injuring his right hamstring.
“He was frustrated. He thought he had let the team down, he thought he had let himself down,” Cashman said.
The Yankees won the American League pennant and went on to beat the Atlanta Braves in the 1999 World Series, with Clemens winning the final game.
McNamee was released by the Yankees in late 2001 after complaints of insubordination and that he was “bleeding into everybody else’s responsibilities,” Cashman said.
He was let go after police investigating a Florida rape case said the trainer had lied to them. McNamee was never charged in the case.
The Florida case in October 2001 came just days before Cashman was called away from his dinner to McNamee’s Seattle hotel room following a barroom incident involving the trainer, the general manager said. He did not detail the incident.
After leaving the Yankees, McNamee continued as personal trainer to Clemens and Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, who has admitted injecting human growth hormone.
Cashman called Clemens “the greatest” and praised his dedication, work ethic and ability to lead a team by example.
“Could you use a 50-year-old ballplayer who can still throw 90 miles an hour?” defense attorney Rusty Hardin asked.
“Maybe,” Cashman replied.
The trial recessed until Monday, when McNamee is expected to take the stand.
Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Eric Walsh