With the news that Roger Clemens is returning to the Yankees, reactions from the local media and Yankee fans are generally positive. Clemens made the announcement during the 7th inning of yesterday's 5-0 win over the Seattle Mariners. After the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," Bob Sheppard directed the crowd to the owner's box for a special announcement. Only then did the public find out that Clemens would be returning to pitch for the Yankees, "Well, they came and got me out of Texas. I can tell you, it's a privilege to be back. I'll be talking to y'all soon."
Clemens' one-year contract is for $28 million, but will be prorated from the date that he actually joins the team and is estimated to be worth about $18 million. Right now, Clemens will only get a stipend with his minor league contract. Unlike last year, the Yankees were willing to give Clemens special privileges where he can go home between starts and doesn't have to travel with the team when he's not scheduled to pitch. Before the season started, Yankee brass had $25.5 million earmarked for Clemens, but when Clemens' agent Randy Hendricks made a $28 million offer, the Yankees jumped at the opportunity.
For the Yankees, signing the high-priced pitcher was just standard operating procedure, but this time, the Steinbrenner sons were involved. While the news of Clemens' return to the Yankees was a secret to many, including his children, some Yankee players claimed that they knew he was coming back. Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter said they knew and Johnny Damon said there were rumors and that he knew for sure when he heard the music in the clubhouse, "We'd been hearing news; and hearing Rocket Man by Elton John and the Def Leppard song, too, we were like 'What's going on'."
For their part, Red Sox players said that they didn't need Clemens. Curt Schilling said, "I feel like we were legitimate World Series contenders without him, so that doesn't change my mind." Josh Beckett thought that Boston was also fine without Clemens, but added, "Unless the Yankees decide to trade him to us, we're probably going to have to move on without him." The Houston Astros, The Rocket's other suitors, were disappointed that Clemens signed with the Yankees. Owner Drayton McLane said, "We were hoping to have more time to talk. This happened faster than anybody thought." They also wanted Clemens for only three months, as opposed to the earlier time-frame that Clemens was on and that Hendricks pushed.
If Clemens returns at the end of May or early June, his potential opponents could be the Angels (home, May 25-27), the Blue Jays (away, 28-30), at Boston (away, June 1-3), at White Sox (away, 4-7), or the Pirates (home, 8-10). We can bet that ESPN is hoping that Clemens returns against the Red Sox on June 3rd for their nationally televised game. Clemens says that he plans to workout in Lexington, Kentucky with his son Koby, who's in the Astros farm system, for about two weeks. Assuming three starts in the minors, his first game could very well be against the lowly Pirates, which could be perfect. A National League team to warm-up against from the same division as his last team. The perfect, low-pressure situation to come back to.
The Times points out that the Yankees will use their 10th starting pitcher of the season tonight, more than any other team at this point in the season. (The Times also has a nice graphic summarizing Clemens's career stats.) When Matt DeSalvo takes the mound, he'll also be the team's 6th rookie to start this season.
Photo of Roger Clemens throwing in the outfield with Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry by AP/Kathy Willens