Notes: Clemens 'tested and rested'

Notes: Clemens 'tested and rested'

CLEVELAND -- Roger Clemens has cleared all hurdles, assuming his place in line to serve as the Yankees' starting pitcher for Game 3.

Clemens said he is set to take the mound on Sunday for what would be the right-hander's first appearance since Sept. 16, when he pitched six strong innings at Fenway Park before being shut down for the regular season with a variety of blister, elbow and hamstring issues.

"We've been treating it aggressively," Clemens said. "I felt in this type of situation -- a playoff situation -- I could have thrown on it anyway, but they elected to take a cautious approach. That's the way it ended up."

Clemens rejoined the Yankees late Tuesday evening after a 69-pitch simulated game in Tampa, Fla., where he faced Minor League players from both sides of the plate and performed pitchers' fielding practice work, including covering first base.

As general manager Brian Cashman put it, Clemens is now "tested and rested," cleared for duty when the series returns to New York on Sunday night.

"That's the game plan," Cashman said. "We expected it, or hoped it. He just had to go and clear those hurdles. Thankfully, we can run him out there in Game 3 and hope that he gives us a Roger-like performance."

Clemens expressed confidence that he would not only be available to pitch on Saturday, but that he would give the Yankees a performance capable of winning behind.

"I think I've been doing enough throwing to be OK with that," Clemens said. "Getting on the mound the last two days was a big plus, and I'll be on the mound Thursday and Friday here, getting some work done. We'll take that and make the practice and all my normal drills I do in between worthwhile."

Clemens, 45, went 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 17 regular-season starts and one relief appearance for the Yankees, having inked a one-year, pro-rated $28 million contract on May 6.

Limited to just two starts in September, Clemens has the Yankees hoping that he can give them much more in October, something that could bring a whole lot more value home on the investment.

"It's very gratifying to have this opportunity," Clemens said. "The guys should be really proud of what they accomplished. It was a nice run to get here, and now that you're here, all bets are off and you have to do it again."

Persistence pays off: Ross Ohlendorf knew there was a chance the Yankees might be thinking about him for their playoff roster, and that was good enough, considering how far he came this season.

A 25-year-old right-hander acquired from the Diamondbacks in January's Randy Johnson trade, Ohlendorf suffered through a back issue and was converted into a reliever before being promoted to the Yankees in September, allowing two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.

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"I realized it's pretty fun to have a chance to pitch every day," Ohlendorf said. "I liked starting, too, but as long as I'm getting to pitch, that's really what it's all about."

Seeing an opportunity, Ohlendorf said he prepared himself as though he expected to be pitching in October and constantly polled clubhouse persons for any inside information they might be able to offer.

"If I didn't make it, it's better to be disappointed than to not be prepared," Ohlendorf said. "I knew there was a chance."

Yet there was no final news to report until early Wednesday, when manager Joe Torre dropped the final decision on Ohlendorf while he was running around the Jacobs Field outfield.

"We were going back and forth on Ohlendorf; we knew he loved this stuff," Torre said. "We just weren't sure. He's been inquiring all week about the roster, which I like. I think it's great."

Jose Veras, 26, was another dark-horse addition to the bullpen, coming back after March surgery to have three bone chips and calcification removed from his right elbow.

In Spring Training, Veras reported to Legends Field proudly clutching a small bag in which the removed items were kept; by Wednesday afternoon, he had something much more impressive to show off.

"I'm strong, healthy and focused," Veras said. "My mind is real free of everything. I've got no pain. It feels good when you pitch without pain."

Defense wins: Sitting at home last October, Doug Mientkiewicz watched Gary Sheffield's ill-fated attempt to play first base for the Yankees and told himself that he could help that organization.

So when the Yankees came calling with a one-year contract offer, Mientkiewicz naturally envisioned himself suiting up in a postseason series for New York -- an event that he now finds less than 24 hours away, chosen by Torre over Shelley Duncan or Jason Giambi because of his strong defensive reputation as well as his surprisingly potent September offense.

While saying that he respects Sheffield's athletic ability and talent, playing multiple positions, Mientkiewicz said that last October's lessons are just one example of why he has said his best attributes show up late in the year.

"It just goes to show you that you can't stick anybody at first base and expect to be successful," Mientkiewicz said. "No one remembers a good first baseman -- everyone notices a bad first baseman.

"Who touches the ball more than the pitcher and catcher? The first baseman. I think the days of just slapping some big oaf over there who can't move, that's not the way it works anymore. If you do, you'd better hit 65 home runs."

Quotable: "We're not ready to go home. I'm not ready to take the kids to school or pack lunches. Now is our time to play baseball." -- Johnny Damon

Bombers bits: The 36-year veteran Bruce Froemming will serve as home-plate umpire and crew chief on Thursday. Laz Diaz (1B), Ron Kulpa (2B), Fieldin Culbreth (3B), Gerry Davis (LF) and Jim Wolf (RF) round out the crew. ... Jorge Posada is the only Yankees player to have homered off Sabathia. He has two. ... Thursday's national anthem will be performed by the Cleveland Orchestra Double String Quartet.

Coming up: Game 1 of the AL Division Series will be played on Thursday at Jacobs Field, opening the Yankees' 13th consecutive appearance in the ALDS. Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (19-7, 3.70 ERA in 2007) will toe the rubber opposite left-hander C.C. Sabathia (19-7, 3.21 ERA in 2007), with first pitch scheduled for 6:37 p.m. ET on TBS.

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