Originally created 02/21/99

Clemens tries to blend in with Yankees



TAMPA, Fla. -- No one could have blamed Roger Clemens for feeling like a runway model as cameras whirred and fans craned their necks to get a glimpse of the new star in Yankee pinstripes.

The five-time Cy Young Award winner reported to spring training Saturday, whisked into the team's complex in a sports utility vehicle and eventually slipped into the uniform he says he's always admired.

He said he just wants to blend in with the defending world champions, but on this day he commanded all of the attention.

"This is great," teammate David Cone joked. "I can slither right in and hide."

Fans lined a walkway stretching across nearby Dale Mabry Highway to Legends Field, while others scrambled for spots along stadium railing to watch Clemens throw to catcher Joe Girardi for 13 minutes (59 pitches) in the bullpen.

His news conference was telecast live in New York and a horde of photographers and reporters tracked as much of his first day on the job as the Yankees would allow. Later, he signed autographs for nearly half an hour.

"I'm glad to get the circus out of the way and get on with business," manager Joe Torre said. "He can't be anonymous. I'm just glad to see he's wearing our uniform."

The Yankees acquired the 36-year-old right-hander in a stunning trade that sent pitchers David Wells and Graeme Lloyd and infielder Homer Bush to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Clemens was 20-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 1998, leading the American League in wins, strikeouts and ERA for the second straight season. He won the Cy Young Award both years, giving him a record five -- one more than the Yankees pitchers have won in team history.

"It's just real exciting to walk in and be a part of the tradition ... I feel very fortunate," Clemens said, adding one of the things he's always admired about the Yankees is their professionalism.

"I feel I'm a grinder. I'm going to take the mound whether my arm feels good or bad," he said.

"I see a lot of professionals that I'm fixing to have the opportunity to play with. They seem like they come every day and know their responsibilities and are going to answer the bell whether they feel good or bad. As a pitcher you can see that sometimes in certain situations with a pitching staff. But it works all the way through with this team."

Clemens turned down a chance to play for the Yankees two years ago, instead going to Toronto where he was frustrated by the Blue Jays' inability to make the playoffs.

The prospect of New York winning its third World Series title in four years wasn't the only factor in his decision to accept the trade to the Yankees. But it was major consideration.

"I've had a great deal of individual success in my career, and I feel very fortunate. ... But I haven't done it collectively. And each year that I am at home and see these guys celebrating, that's what I remember the most," Clemens said.

Clemens arrived in Tampa carrying a poem that his sister wrote after learning he was headed to the Yankees.

"It's from a sister to a brother," he said, declining to read it aloud. "It's really neat. It's about pinstripes, and the tradition, and Yankee Stadium. She knows how I carry that in my heart."

Noting he already knows most of his new teammates, Clemens doesn't anticipate having any problem blending into the clubhouse.

Owner George Steinbrenner has said Clemens won't receive special treatment. And, Clemens isn't interested in getting it.

"I told Joe I'm trying as best I can to slide in the side door. This is a great machine. They've got some great players here," he said.

"Obviously this is a great opportunity. ... But I don't know that what everybody has been saying the last couple of days, about it's going to be easy, is true. You still have to go out and play the game. You still have to go out and work hard and do what it takes to win."