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A nice fit

Clemens grateful for 'second chance' with Yankees

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Posted: Saturday February 20, 1999 08:57 PM

  Bringing the heat: Roger Clemens broke in his new uniform Saturday. AP

TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- Roger Clemens reported for duty as the celebrated new member of the world champion New York Yankees on Saturday at Legends Field.

Before the only five-time Cy Young award winner in baseball history hit the field, he addressed the media and expressed thanks for his "second chance" to wear the pinstripes.

"I feel very fortunate to have a second chance to be a Yankee," Clemens said. "I had the opportunity two years ago to be part of the Yankee organization [before he signed as a free agent with Toronto]. To get a second chance is very exciting and I'm truly thrilled to be here."

The Toronto Blue Jays shipped Clemens to the Yankees in a stunning four-player trade Thursday. Toronto received lefthander David Wells, who pitched a perfect game and was the Yankees' most dependable starter last season, as well as southpaw reliever Graeme Lloyd and infielder Homer Bush.

The addition of Clemens was the first significant roster move made by the Yankees since they won 114 regular-season games and swept the San Diego Padres in the World Series. New York appeared ready to defend its title with a nearly identical team. But owner George Steinbrenner has long coveted Clemens and pulled the trigger on the deal.

Meanwhile, Clemens has a chance to win a World Series title for the first time in his incredible 15-year career.

"I'm just going to try my best to slide in the side door," Clemens said. "This is a great machine. They have some great players."

Clemens wore No. 21 throughout his career, but will switch to 12 since outfielder Paul O'Neill wears 21 with the Yankees.

As a player dealt in the middle of a multi-year contract, Clemens can demand a trade after the 1999 season. But the 36-year-old likely will not exercise that right.

"I hope I'm around for a long time in a Yankee uniform," Clemens said.

Clemens signed a four-year, $31.1 million deal after the 1996 season and is owed $16.1 million over the next two seasons.

Clemens was a unanimous selection for his second straight Cy Young Award in 1998 after going 20-6 with a 2.65 ERA and 271 strikeouts. The ERA, win and strikeout totals led the league as he joined Sandy Koufax, Lefty Grove and Grover Alexander as the only hurlers to win the pitching "Triple Crown" in back-to-back seasons.

After the season, Clemens cited a verbal agreement with former Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and exercised his option to be traded to a contender or to a team near his Texas home. Clemens was unhappy with the Blue Jays' lack of activity in the offseason.

Among the teams most interested in Clemens were the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians, but all three expressed reluctance to meet Toronto's high asking price.

After winning his first three Cy Young Awards with Boston in 1986, 1987 and 1991, Clemens left the Red Sox after the 1996 season, following a well-publicized feud with general manager Dan Duquette.

A seven-time All-Star and five-time 20-game winner, Clemens is 233-124 with a 2.95 ERA and 3,153 strikeouts in 450 career games.

Related information
This time, Clemens decides Yankees a good idea
SI's Tom Verducci: What's Roger's ring size?
Peter King: Heading in the wrong direction
Leigh Montville: Another dreary day in Beantown
Roger Clemens is happy to have the chance to become a Yankee. (672 K)
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