Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 23 News List

The Rocket cools his jets ahead of games against the Red Sox

AP , NEW YORK

Roger Clemens walked out of the New York Yankees' clubhouse and was immediately intercepted by a familiar face.

"Fat boy," Carlos Delgado called to his old Blue Jays teammate.

They hugged, and Clemens took the Toronto slugger's bat and got into a stance. The Rocket was playful Friday night, and for good reason -- his bruised right hand was OK, and he was still on target to try for his 300th career win tomorrow against Boston.

"It's fine, I threw all my pitches," Clemens said after a bullpen session. "It went well."

The same couldn't be said for the rest of the Yankees.

All-Star center fielder Bernie Williams was put on the 15-day disabled list because of a bad knee and shortstop Derek Jeter was a late scratch for Friday night's game because of mild stiffness in his left hamstring.

Jeter's problem didn't appear serious. Manager Joe Torre just did not want to take any chances with Jeter on a field made slick by an all-day rain.

Williams, however, probably will need surgery that would sideline him for four-to-six weeks. He has torn cartilage in his left knee.

As Williams walked through the locker room, someone asked how he was feeling.

"Not too good," he said.

The Yankees recalled outfielder Juan Rivera from Triple-A Columbus to take the roster spot, and he was put into the starting lineup, playing left against Toronto.

Rivera hit .265 with one home run and six RBIs in 83 at-bats for the Yankees as a rookie last season. The team liked him enough that he started in the first round of the AL playoffs, going 3-for-12 with three RBIs in four games against Anaheim.

"I gained a lot of confidence last year. It's not like this is my first day and I was nervous," he said through a translator.

Rivera was the victim of an overcrowded outfield this spring, with Hideki Matsui playing left field, and Rivera was sent to the minors. He began the season with a 19-game hitting streak at Columbus, and was batting .327 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 41 games for the Clippers.

"He was a big league player when we sent him out," Torre said.

Rivera said he didn't let the demotion demoralize him, and welcomed the chance to play every day in Williams' absence. He played down the notion that the upcoming month was a chance for New York to showcase him for other clubs.

"When you let yourself get frustrated, you're just hurting yourself," Rivera said. "I don't think about getting traded. I think about playing for the Yankees. But I realize there are 30 teams, and you don't know where you'll end up."

With Rivera in left field, Matsui will move to center. Torre wasn't worried, saying that was Matsui's main position in Japan.

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