Updated 5:10 p.m.
Two elite Major League Baseball pitchers were pitted against each other in a federal courtroom Tuesday, as Andy Pettitte told a jury that he first learned about a performance-enhancing drug called human growth hormone when Roger Clemens admitted to using it.
The afternoon was some of the most emotional testimony in the high-profile perjury and obstruction prosecution of seven-time Cy Young Award-winner Clemens, who is accused of lying to Congress when he denied using performance enhancing drugs at a 2008 oversight hearing.
When prosecutors asked why testifying in the case against his baseball idol and former teammate and training partner was so difficult, Pettitte could only muster: “Cause… good friend.”
Pettite’s testimony was some of the most important and trickiest for federal prosecutors, who are trying to connect Clemens to his former strength trainer but avoid another mistrial. Clemens’ first trial in 2011 was cut short when the jury heard evidence that was supposed to be excluded.
On Tuesday, Pettitte testified about using the drug HGH in 2002 and 2004 to deal with injuries, but was prohibited from speaking about where he got them. Assistant U.S. attorney Steven Durham danced around with questions that often began, “Without saying names…”
Pettitte is key to the prosecution’s case because he acquired HGH from Brian McNamee, Clemens’ former strength trainer. McNamee is the central government witness, and is expected to testify that he injected Clemens with performance enhancing drugs.
To show how close the two pitchers were, Durham showed the jury photos of Clemens and Pettitte jogging together in a baseball park's outfield, standing next to each other in a dugout during a game, and standing next to each other during the national anthem.
Then Durham showed photos of McNamee, Pettitte and Clemens working out together during the off-season. Pettitte told the jury during one of those workout sessions that Clemens told him about using HGH.
“Roger had mentioned to me that he had taken HGH and it could help with recovery. That’s really all I remember about the conversation,” Pettitte testified.
Later, Pettitte recalled approaching Clemens in a Florida spring training clubhouse in 2005 and asking what Clemens planned to do if the media asked him about using performance-enhancing drugs, since there were congressional hearings about the topic and a growing public interest.
“My concern in my mind was, I knew I was very approachable by the media, I knew I had already taken HGH and I was concerned with what I was going to say if the media approached me with that question,” Pettitte testified.
“He just said, ‘What are you talking about?’” Pettitte said. “I said, ‘Didn’t you tell me that, you used it?' ” He said Clemens told him, “I didn’t tell you that, I told you my wife Debbie used it.”
“Obviously, I was a little flustered because I thought he told me that he did,” Pettitte said. “I thought, it’s no good asking him or talking to him about this now and walked out.”
Did they argue? “There was nothing to argue about,” Pettitte said. “He said he didn’t use it.”
In cross examination, one of Clemens’ attorneys, Mike Attanasio, focused on how Pettitte was probably the best person to talk about Clemens as a legendary pitcher and as a teammate, including his incredible work ethic and dedication to studying opposing batters and umpires.
Pettitte agreed that Clemens’ body and pitching mechanics never changed over the years, and that he was always “country big” instead of “weightroom big.” Pettitte denied that there was any time he saw Clemens – either dressed or undressed in the shower, as Attanasio put it – that he suspected Clemens was on performance-enhancing drugs.
And Clemens struck out batters using a sinking pitch he developed called a “splitter,” and not a faster fast ball, as his career went on.
“Did he ever once tell you or suggest to you that you personally should use HGH or steroids?” Attanasio asked.
“No,” was Pettitte’s reply.