Yankees React To Clemens' Departure

The Yankees had already said their goodbyes. They realized months ago that if Roger Clemens wanted to come out of retirement and pitch for the Houston Astros, there was nothing they could do about it.

"He's a free agent," general manager Brian Cashman said. "He can do what he wants."

Clemens, who won his 300th game and recorded his 4,000th strikeout last season, always said 2003 was going to be his last season. But he left the door open a crack, which turned out to be Andy Pettitte's decision to sign with Houston as a free agent.

Pettitte, and several other Astros, lobbied Clemens, who has decided to accept the Astros' one-year, $4 million contract offer.

Clemens' agent, Randy Hendricks, said at the baseball winter meetings in New Orleans in mid-December that his client would make a decision by the middle of January. That decision has now been reached, and the Astros have two-fifths of the Yankees' 2003 rotation.

It will be interesting to see how much the Yankees miss the presence of Pettitte and Clemens. While Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown are quality arms -- when they're healthy -- the mystique of the Yankees was augmented by the postseason brilliance of Pettitte and Clemens.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Yankees hired Rick Down, whom they fired as hitting instructor after the season, as a coordinator of minor league instruction. Down was replaced by as hitting coach by Don Mattingly.
--Infielder Erick Almonte cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Columbus.
--Catcher Michel Hernandez was claimed on waivers by the Boston Red Sox.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I play 20 years, work my tail off -- they're not going to tell me what hat I'm wearing. I promise you that. There might be a vacant seat there. I'll take my mother and we'll go to Palm Springs and invite all y'all and we'll have our own celebration." -- Roger Clemens on being told the Hall of Fame will determine what he wears when he is inducted. Clemens has insisted he will wear a Yankee cap, but the Hall says the deciding factor is where the player made his mark, and that would be Boston.

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