Rocket tentatively set to rejoin Yanks

Rocket tentatively set to rejoin Yanks

TORONTO -- The Rocket is ready for liftoff.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said that all indications are that Roger Clemens is prepared for his first Major League start of the season, tentatively scheduled for Monday against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

With the Yankees' top three pitchers -- Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte -- lined up to pitch against this weekend at Fenway Park, Torre said that Clemens would throw an extra session between his regular work days and slot back to avoid the Red Sox series.

"I'm not disappointed that he's not pitching in Fenway, let's put it that way," Torre said. "I don't think that series needs any more hype than it gets every time we play it, whether it's at Fenway or at [Yankee] Stadium.

"You'd obviously be tempted if we had a kid pitching and we could replace him with Roger Clemens. But when you have Wang and Moose and Andy, there's really not the temptation to do that."

Clemens, 44, turned in a stellar performance for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday, in which the Rocket limited the Toledo Mud Hens to two hits over six shutout innings.

Clemens struck out six in the 89-pitch (57 for strikes) effort, and though he told reporters at PNC Field in Moosic, Pa., that he did not know at the time what his next step would be, Clemens said he felt progress toward his eventual goal.

"I'm not exactly where I'd like to be, but I'm moving forward," Clemens said.

The right-hander's next immediate step is to travel to New York, where he is expected to take part in a Continental Airlines-sponsored "Pinstripes in the Park" program on Wednesday at Manhattan's Bryant Park.

Hundreds of fans are expected to gather on blankets under the stars and watch the Yankees complete their series with the Blue Jays. Watching the Yankees on a big screen is a nice diversion, but Clemens is expected to work in New York as well, likely throwing a bullpen session on Wednesday as preparation for his pending promotion.

"I think he'll do what he needs to do," Torre said. "All indications are that he's ready to go."

After Clemens turned in an underwhelming performance last week for Double-A Trenton, the Yankees decided that they would be better served to allow Clemens at least one more Minor League start and entrust the Major League pitching assignment to 26-year-old rookie Matt DeSalvo, who started Monday at Toronto.

But DeSalvo was knocked out in the fifth inning of a 7-2 Yankees loss to the Blue Jays, kicking off New York's three-city, 10-day road trip.

While DeSalvo showed a need for further seasoning, some 380 miles away, it was Clemens who appeared to be big-league ready, rifling past the lineup of the Detroit Tigers' Triple-A affiliate.

The start was witnessed by the watchful eyes of Yankees executives Billy Connors and Gene "Stick" Michael, and Connors seemed most boisterous about Clemens' performance, telling the Scranton Times-Tribune: "This was the step he needed. He's ready to go."

Torre said that Clemens would likely join the Yankees on the day of his start in Chicago.

"It's going to be a lift for people," Torre said. "The reality is that he only pitches once every five or six days. But the fact of the matter is that he's going to help us. He's not going to carry us."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.