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Around Area Camps

Clemens looks strong against ex-teammates

By MARC TOPKIN and MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 1999


TAMPA -- It was not a sight Toronto fans were hoping to see soon, but there he was, Roger Clemens -- a Blue Jay less than one month ago -- on the mound in a Yankees uniform.

Clemens, the main attraction in a Feb. 18 trade with New York, threw 69 pitches over five innings Tuesday night, allowing one run on three hits. He struck out one and walked five.

It was not as strong as his previous outing, when he held Texas hitless through four innings.

"For the most part, I felt pretty good," Clemens said. "I got behind quite a bit, but I think I got stronger as it went along. I got a little quick at the end and got a little sloppy.

"I think the last two innings I was more of a thrower than a pitcher."

OUT IN LEFTFIELD: With Darryl Strawberry starting to get his legs back, the Yankees find themselves with a big group in leftfield.

Ricky Ledee and Chad Curtis have had most of the playing time this spring, but Shane Spencer is proving to be an invaluable commodity. Now Strawberry has announced that he feels he is about a week from being able to chase down fly balls.

None of which helps clear up the question of who will be the Opening Day starter.

"It's too early to say what we're going to do," interim manager Don Zimmer said. "Shane Spencer has done everything to try and win that job, and that's what he has to do. I mean, he plays four or five games in a row, travels, plays all nine innings, and he's diving for balls in the outfield."

Zimmer said Strawberry's schedule depends on when the outfielder, who resumes chemotherapy for colon cancer Friday, begins regular work in the outfield.

HAPPY RETURNS: Paul O'Neill and Bernie Williams made their return to the lineup after battling injuries the past week.

Williams was out five days with a hip flexor, and O'Neill had the flu.

ON DECK: The Yankees send half their roster to Fort Myers to play the Minnesota Twins at 1:05. The other half stays in Tampa to play the Detroit Tigers at 7:15.

Jeff Juden (0-2) will start against the Twins' Brad Radke (0-1). Hideki Irabu (0-1) goes at night against Felipe Lira.

Wells to make debut

TAMPA -- It may be one day too late for many Blue Jays fans, but at least David Wells is finally on a mound in a spring game.

Wells, part of the Clemens trade, starts against Philadelphia at 1:05 p.m. today at Clearwater.

The left-hander has been battling a sore back for the past few weeks.

Wells missed a chance to pitch against his old team -- not to mention head-to-head with Clemens -- Tuesday night, something he has been looking forward to since the trade.

"I hope they throw me against him every time out," Wells said after the trade.

ESCOBAR HOT: Toronto starter Kelvim Escobar, who appeared in 22 games last season, pitched four strong innings against New York.

He allowed one run on two hits, struck out six and walked two. He struck out Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez and Chili Davis in the fourth.

His only downfall was a line drive solo home run by Martinez in the second inning that tied the score.

COMING UP: Toronto hosts the Atlanta Braves on Thursday in a 1:05 game that will feature the Jays' Pat Hentgen against John Smoltz.

Schilling disappointed

CLEARWATER -- Curt Schilling's analysis of his Tuesday performance against the Devil Rays was pretty simple: "It could have been better."

Schilling allowed five hits -- including a two-run home run to Fred McGriff -- and needed 63 pitches in his three-inning outing. He struck out three and walked two. The Rays won 8-1.

"I struggled up in the strike zone, and my arm's a little fatigued, as it can be this time in spring," Schilling said. "I would like to have spread those pitches out over more innings."

Schilling is trying to pitch inside more this spring, and he has found the change to be as much mental as physical. He was trying to work McGriff inside when the Rays' first baseman drove the ball deep over the rightfield fence.

OUCH: Reliever Ken Ryan left after being struck on the right elbow with a ball hit by Terrell Lowery. X-rays were negative.

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