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Confident, with a caveat

Clemens feels good about Friday's start, will see how body holds up.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published May 16, 2007


TAMPA - Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, at age 44 and making another midseason comeback run from retirement, says he has the same doubts as the rest of the baseball world as he makes his first minor-league start Friday in Tampa.

"That's the pressure that goes with the game, " Clemens told reporters after a 71-pitch bullpen session Tuesday morning at the Yankees' minor-league complex in Tampa. "When ya'll leave, I have the same questions ya'll do, whether my body is going to hold up. I can't answer that. ... I don't expect to feel great at times."

He wonders how long the soreness will remain in his arm between throwing sessions, how long until he feels comfortable on the mound and how much he can help an injury-riddled team in dire need of a strong arm.

But Clemens, who was originally slated to make three minor-league starts before joining the big-league team, said he believed he could be ready to join the Yankees by May 28 after two minor-league starts - Friday for the Tampa Yankees then the second for the Double-A Trenton Thunder on May 23.

"I think I'm right where I need to be, " Clemens said. "I think anything is possible. I think if I come out of the first two (starts) decent, they'll pull me aside. We'll all visit about that, I'm sure. I don't think it's out of the question. We'll just have to see how it feels after the next two times."

That would allow Clemens to get one major-league outing before facing the AL East leading Red Sox on June 2.

Clemens, who said he threw about 90, 91 mph on Tuesday, said he hopes to throw between 45 to 60 pitches in the Tampa Yankees' Florida State League game against Fort Myers at Legends Field. On Tuesday he also ran, participated in fielding drills and tutored young Yankees pitchers such as Phil Hughes and Jeff Karstens, both of whom are in Tampa rehabbing injuries.

"I think I'm right where I need to be to get this on for Friday, " he said. "I want to be able to perform the way I'm supposed to. I wanted to be able to hold up my end of the deal."

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Clemens in Tampa

Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens will make his first minor-league start at 7 p.m. Friday, pitching for the Tampa Yankees against the Fort Myers Miracle at Legends Field. Tampa Yankees director of ticketing Brian Valdez said Tuesday that 4, 000 tickets have been sold (Legends Field has a capacity of 10, 400); he expected only $3 general admission seats to remain today. Call (813) 879-2244.