Banged-up Roger Clemens replaced with reliever Ron Villone

Banged-up Roger Clemens replaced with reliever Ron Villone

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NEW YORK - Roger Clemens was removed from the New York Yankees' division series roster Monday, replaced by left-handed reliever Ron Villone.

Under a new rule, Clemens now is ineligible for the AL championship series if the Yankees advance. He could return to the roster if New York reaches the World Series.

Clemens re-injured a hamstring Sunday and left in the third inning of New York's 8-4 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 3. He met with manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman after the game.

"Normally, he'd fight," Cashman said. "But he didn't fight this one. He knows his body and he knows that he did enough damage in there that he wouldn't be ready."

New York petitioned Major League Baseball for the roster switch Monday morning and it was granted hours later. Clemens declined comment through team spokesman Jason Zillo before the start of Game 4.

"He had some time trying to deal with his hamstring, and he had a couple of different instances last night in the first couple of innings that he felt it," Torre said. "So the fact that he won't be eligible for the championship series probably makes sense."

Villone said Torre and pitching coach Ron Guidry gave him the news after he arrived at Yankee Stadium on Monday. New York did not have a lefty in the bullpen until it added Villone to its playoff roster.

"If I can do anything to help us, that's what I'm here for," said Villone, who had no record and a 4.25 ERA in 37 games this season. "I'm excited, but you've got to prepare just like every other game."

Clemens' left hamstring started bothering him again when he broke for Kenny Lofton's bunt attempt in the second inning. He told a Yankees trainer about the problem after the inning.

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner walked Travis Hafner leading off the third and struck out Victor Martinez before he was replaced by Phil Hughes. Clemens got an encouraging pat on the chest from Alex Rodriguez before trudging toward the dugout.

The roster switch left Clemens' future in doubt: The Yankees trailed the Indians 2-1 in the best-of-five series entering Monday night's game.

"We don't know if he'll be all right for the World Series," Torre said. "We hope we have an opportunity to find out."

In early May, the 45-year-old Clemens put off retirement with a few dramatic words from owner George Steinbrenner's box at Yankee Stadium. He signed a contract that paid him $17.4 million but was bothered by injuries down the stretch.

The right-hander's outing against Cleveland was his first since Sept. 16 and second since Sept. 3 because of a cranky elbow and sore left hamstring.

Clemens worked out in Tampa, Fla., and pronounced himself fit just a few days ago. But he never looked comfortable Sunday and was forced to leave early, just like his previous postseason appearance.

Pitching for his hometown Houston Astros, Clemens hobbled off the field after two innings in Game 1 of the 2005 World Series against the Chicago White Sox with a strained left hamstring, the same injury that shelved him against the Tribe.

After New York's Game 3 win, Clemens insisted he couldn't even think about whether his storied career is over.

"I don't know," was all he would say on the matter, limping slightly as he walked out of the stadium with his sons.

Headed to the Hall of Fame, Clemens has 354 wins and two World Series titles. He ranks second on the career strikeout list with 4,672.

Clemens went 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA for New York this season, striking out 68 in 99 innings.

Villone gives Torre another option for some lefty bats that have bothered New York during the series. Hafner is 0-for-5 with a double play in his career against Villone, though Kenny Lofton is 4-for-8 with three walks and Grady Sizemore is 2-for-4 with a double.

Indians manager Eric Wedge was asked if it was unfair that the Yankees were allowed to replenish their bullpen.

"That's the rule, you know, and they're taking advantage of it," he said. "But I'm sure we would probably do the same thing if we were in that situation."

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