Rocket pitches simulated game, says he's ready for Game 3

Updated: October 3, 2007, 10:42 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- The Rocket's ready to fire again in the playoffs.

Roger Clemens, who had several starts pushed back because of an injured hamstring, said Wednesday that he's set to pitch for the New York Yankees in Game 3 against the Cleveland Indians.

Roger Clemens


Starting Pitcher
New York Yankees


2007 Season Stats
18 6 6 31 68 4.18

Clemens had no problems during a 69-pitch simulated game on Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., a final tuneup before what will be his 34th postseason start.

"I feel fine, I really do," the 45-year-old said. "Everything is right on schedule for me, and I'm excited to be here. I still have to go out there and get it done in a game, and that's something completely different, but I feel good."

Clemens said he benefited from the time off and had no problem with the club's decision to delay his starts so he would be ready to pitch in October.

"I felt I could have pitched if it was a situation like now, where we have to get a win," he said. "They took a cautious approach and I'm OK with that."

The right-hander will get in two bullpen sessions on Thursday and Friday, and as long as he doesn't have any setbacks, Clemens will be on the mound when the series shifts to Yankee Stadium with Game 3 on Sunday night.

Clemens came out of semiretirement in May for another chance to pitch in big games. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner is savoring what could be his last swing through the postseason.

"It's very gratifying to have the opportunity to be here with these guys," he said. "When I came to the team, it was a different situation. I was watching along with everybody else the pitchers getting injured, and we were behind the 8-ball.

"A lot of very close friends did a lot of talking to get me to come back. I've never regretted it for a moment," he said.

Yankees manager Joe Torre announced his roster for the first round, and there were few surprises.

Rookie right-handers Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Veras were added in place of left-hander Ron Villone and right-hander Edwar Ramirez.

While Veras was an easy decision, Torre said the club wrestled over whether to include Ohlendorf, who began the season as a starter.

"We were very impressed with what Ross brought to the table," he said. "We had our final meeting this morning and it was unanimous on making that choice based on his stuff and his makeup."

Ohlendorf, acquired in the deal that sent Randy Johnson to Arizona in January, made his major-league debut Sept. 11, the first of his six relief appearances for the Yankees. The Princeton product figured to be a longshot to pitch in October but made a quick impression.

"I wasn't sure if I'd be on the roster, but I prepared myself to be ready," he said. "I figured it would be better to be disappointed [that he didn't make it] than to be here and unprepared. The season has taken a lot of twists and turns. They asked me to relieve and at first I wasn't sure about that. I didn't exactly like it, because I had always started.

"Once I did it, I figured that, heck, relieving is a way to get into a game almost every day," he said.

Veras had a 5.79 ERA in nine appearances with the Yankees. Because Villone didn't make the roster, the Yankees won't have a left-handed reliever.

Hideki Matsui will be the designated hitter in the opener and Doug Mientiewicz will be the first baseman, giving the Yankees five left-handed hitters against Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia. Torre decided not to use Shelly Duncan at first or DH and wanted Mientkiewicz for defense with New York starting sinkerballer Chien-Ming Wang.

Lefties hit just .203 against the left-handed Sabathia, with three homers and four walks in 202 at-bats.

"We're just trying to hold things in and, hopefully, we can grind it out," Torre said. "Our left-hand hitters, I have no hesitation to have them hit against left-hand pitcher. I grant you Sabathia is something special."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press