10/08/07 8:30 PM ET
Clemens pulled from Yankees roster
Righty ineligible for ALCS; lefty Villone chosen as replacement
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
The ailing right-hander was removed from the Yankees roster on Monday, making him ineligible for the American League Championship Series, should New York post two more victories over the Cleveland Indians.
Then again, the chances of Clemens making a comeback this postseason are slim. The 45-year-old right-hander was forced to exit his Game 3 start after just 2 1/3 innings, aggravating a left hamstring injury -- one of a variety of health issues that forced Clemens to sit out the final weeks of the regular season.
Yankees manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman said that the decision to substitute left-handed reliever Ron Villone for Clemens, using a new rule for in-series roster changes, was reached easily.
"It just makes sense to bang him right now," Torre said. "It didn't take long, with Rocket included in the conversation, to take him off the roster. Knowing he wouldn't be available until the World Series, it's probably the safest way to go."
"It wasn't long -- everybody was on the same page," Cashman said. "Rocket knows his body better than anybody, and he knows he wouldn't be ready for this next round. There was no fight -- disappointment, yes -- but understanding at the same time."
With Clemens off the postseason roster and Villone on, the Yankees finally have a left-hander in their postseason bullpen. The 37-year-old veteran had been left off for the first two games, leaving the club without a southpaw reliever on staff.
This season, Villone posted a 4.25 ERA in 37 appearances for New York, missing the Opening Day roster before pitching his way back to the big league level by accepting an assignment to Triple-A.
"I'm happy to be available and be able to help under the circumstances," Villone said. "It's not the optimal way to get onto a roster, but if I can help in any way, [I will]. It's tough losing Roger -- everybody should know that."
Signed to a prorated $28 million contract on May 6, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner went 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA over 18 games, including 17 starts. Clemens is baseball's active leader with 354 victories and 4,672 strikeouts.
Clemens left Sunday's start after pumping a 92-mph fastball past Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez for the first out in the third inning, walking off the Yankee Stadium mound to a mixture of boos and cheers. Clemens was unavailable for comment before Game 4, receiving treatment in the clubhouse trainers room.
"The toughest part of Roger last night was just leaving the mound, feeling he'd let everybody down," Torre said. "He didn't hold up on his end of the bargain. He was sort of yelling to himself when he left the mound -- not that he didn't understand coming out. He was just disappointed in himself."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.