tampabay.com

Clemens revels in his role as a mentor to young arms

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published May 20, 2007


TAMPA - If there was anything that made Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens feel all of 44 years old, it was being around a bunch of kids last week in Tampa.

With every bullpen session leading up to Friday night's start with the Class A Tampa Yankees, Clemens drew a crowd. And with a future Hall of Famer within earshot, some of the young pitchers took advantage. In the minor-league complex weight room, three asked to stand in front of a mirror and talk mechanics. When he took the mound, the pitchers - including rehabbing young guns Phil Hughes and Jeff Karstens - watched.

"I try to encourage these guys, somebody on the major-league level is going to get complacent and it's your job to bump them out of the organization or out of the game, " Clemens said. "There are a lot of questions. ... It helps me clean up my game a little bit, just talking about it."

One of the amazing resources the Yankees have is their history. Former Yankees flock to Tampa every spring to participate in spring training. It's an asset to young players who come through the system to have former superstars to learn from. Add Clemens to the list.

He told them to keep a daily journal, have a routine and be willing to make adjustments. Call him a hired gun. Mention the travel clause in his contract. Yes, Clemens has different priorities than most, but refreshingly, last week one of them was as a pitching coach.

"I enjoy teaching and to me, there's a difference between teaching and coaching, " Clemens said. "My days are a little bit longer than I would like, but I enjoy doing it."

TRENDSETTING: Minor-leaguer Lino Urdaneta became the seventh member of the Mets organization, including big-leaguer Guillermo Mota, to be suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs since the start of the 2006 season. Urdaneta just had a 10-game stint with the Mets before being sent to Triple A on Monday. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said he's disappointed that his organization is being hit hard, and he's having talks with the team's medical staff and nutritionists about a possible solution.

GIVE GIL SUPPORT: Royals RHP Gil Meche has eight quality starts in nine tries with a 1.91 ERA but is just 3-1. The Royals are 6-3 in his first nine starts, but in Meche's five no-decisions the Royals are averaging less than three runs. "I'm here to pitch for five years, " he said, "and however many wins I get, I really don't care. I don't start the game thinking that I'm trying to get a win. If we win the games I pitch, that's what matters."

FALSE FORECAST: In spring training, Padres general manager Kevin Towers speculated that because of the offseason construction of high-rise buildings in downtown San Diego, balls might carry better at oversized Petco Park this year. But Padres OF Brian Giles said the winds are still swirling behind him. "I feel the wind on the back of my neck all the time here in rightfield, " Giles said.

PREDICTING THE BIG ONE: The oddsmakers at Bodog.com last week released their odds on when Barry Bonds will hit his 756th homer to break Hank Aaron's record. They are saying the most likely series will be June 18-20 in Milwaukee (7 to 2 odds), followed by June 22-24 at home against the Mets (4 to 1) and June 18-20 in Boston (9 to 2).

Also of note, it's most likely Bonds will hit No. 756 on a Wednesday (7 to 2), in the first inning (3 to 1) and on a 1-and-1 count (3 to 1).

Bodog even lists an over-under on the age of the fan who catches the ball (371/2 years) and how long it will take for Bonds to round the bases (281/2 seconds).

AROUND THE HORN: New Blue Jays closer Jeremy Accardo has a personal streak of 18 scoreless innings dating to the start of the season, giving Toronto hope post-B.J. Ryan. ... Once OF Garret Anderson comes of the DL in the next week, the Angels will face a tough decision on where to play rookie OF Reggie Willits, who is hitting .371 and is 7-for-12 in his past three games. ... The Twins are 4-8 since C Joe Mauer went on the DL May 5. ... To all New Yorkers, Arizona LHP Randy Johnson is on a schedule that would cause him to miss starts on both trips to New York, June 1-3 against the Mets and June 12-14 against the Yankees.