Yankees reel in Clemens with $28 million contract

N.Y. also promised earlier return to roster

May 07, 2007|By Kat O'Brien

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees have wanted Roger Clemens back for more than a year. Their desire for him to wear pinstripes again only increased as injuries ravaged their starting rotation early this season.

The Yankees got their wish yesterday, with Clemens agreeing to a $28 million salary, prorated to when he joins the team.

They even managed to keep Clemens' decision to return to the Bronx a secret for two days - until the seventh-inning stretch during the Yankees-Seattle Mariners game at Yankee Stadium, when public address announcer Bob Sheppard told the crowd to look to the owner's box and the center-field video screen for a special announcement.

There was Clemens, smiling and waving to the approving crowd of 52,553, and saying: "I can tell you it's a privilege to be back. I'll be talking to y'all soon."

He and his agent, Randy Hendricks, had flown in from Houston, arriving at Yankee Stadium late in the sixth inning.

So the Yankees stealthily added the top starting pitcher available to their battered rotation, easily besting the Boston Red Sox's offer of $18 million. They also agreed to grant him special travel privileges to leave the team to join his family between starts when he wishes.

Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, had said numerous times that he would only consider joining the Yankees, Red Sox or Houston Astros, for whom he pitched the past three seasons.

Clemens, 44, and his agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks, had said he would not make up his mind about pitching at all this season until late this month. Talks between Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and the Clemens camp heated up in the past several days, though, and came to a swift conclusion.

"Make no mistake about it: I've come back to do what they only know how to do here with the Yankees, and that's win a championship," Clemens said. "Anything else is a failure."

Randy Hendricks said that the deciding factor was that the Yankees wanted Clemens to join them as soon as possible. The Red Sox and Astros, Hendricks said, wanted to wait another month or so.

Clemens' initial contract, which he had not signed at the time of the news conference, is a minor league one that will pay him what he earned in the Astros' minor league system last year. That was reported as $60,000 last year by the Houston Chronicle. Once he jumps to the major leagues, he will get an enormous pay bump.

Steinbrenner issued the following statement: "Roger Clemens is a winner and a champion, and he is someone who can be counted on to help make this season one that all Yankees fans can be proud of. The sole mission of this organization is to win a world championship."

Putting Clemens in a rotation with Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina certainly helps the Yankees toward that goal. The right-hander went 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA in 19 starts for the Astros last year. In the three seasons Clemens pitched for the Astros after announcing his retirement in 2003, he went 38-18 with a 2.40 ERA in 84 games. In his career, Clemens is 348-173 with a 3.10 ERA.

Clemens will head to Lexington, Ky., where his oldest son, Koby, is pitching in the minor leagues, to train for the next 10 days or so. It will likely be three to four weeks before he makes his Yankees return.

Kat O'Brien writes for Newsday.

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