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Elated Clemens ready to earn his pinstripes

He starts new job with brief bullpen session.

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 1999


TAMPA -- After waiting two days, Yankees fans finally got what they wanted.

Wrapped in a red Chevy Blazer and wearing a Yankee blue button-up shirt, Roger Clemens made his first appearance at Legends Field on Saturday, completing one of baseball's most stunning trades.

Clemens, dealt from Toronto on Thursday for pitchers David Wells, Graeme Lloyd and infielder Homer Bush, arrived in the morning on a commercial flight from his home in Katy, Texas.

By 1 p.m. he had on his new pinstripes and New York hat and was headed to the bullpen for a 13-minute, 59-pitch workout.

"It's exciting to be a part of this tradition," Clemens said. "It's been a crazy couple of days, so now I'm just going to try to catch my breath a little."

While some fans complained about the loss of Wells, who pitched a perfect game in May and seemed to embody the New York persona of following up a hard day at work with a hard night on the town, the addition of Clemens gives the defending World Champion the most dominant American League pitcher over the past decade.

Some perspective: The Yankees have had four Cy Young Award winners. Clemens won his fifth last season.

About 350 fans watched pitchers and catchers work out. A few were there to watch minor-league prospects test their bats. All were excited to see the newest addition -- even if they weren't exactly Rocket boosters.

"I don't really like him on the Yankees," said Joe, 16, who would not give a last name because he was missing Saturday school for the opportunity to get Clemens' autograph. "It seems weird to see him in pinstripes, you know. He's been (with the Red Sox) for so long. He'll always be a (Red Sox player)."

Clemens, however, doesn't think it will be difficult to change minds once he takes the mound. "I've gotten numerous phone calls from people in Boston who are mad they can't call them the Damn Yankees anymore," he said. "They keep telling me that, as much as they hate it, they're Yankee fans now. I told them to hang on for the ride, because I'm going to keep being as aggressive as ever and we're going to get it done."

A KEY COMEBACK?: The departure of Wells and Lloyd opened a spot in the bullpen.

One possible solution? The return of left-hander Jimmy Key, who pitched for the Yankees from 1993-96 before going to Baltimore. And though he retired at the end of last season, a return is not out of the question.

"We were inquiring about that before we came down here," manager Joe Torre said. said. "But I don't know that Jimmy knows what he wants to do. He's a quality guy, a class act. And I know the only way he's going to come here is if he thinks he can help."

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