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Not ready for last Rocket ride
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10/03/2003  5:36 PM ET 
Not ready for last Rocket ride
Clemens hopes to help Yanks take ALDS advantage
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Roger Clemens heads to the dugout after Friday's workout at the Metrodome. (Jim Mone/AP)
Clemens discusses his Game 3 start 

MINNEAPOLIS -- Roger Clemens knows too well that Saturday's game against the Minnesota Twins could be Major League Baseball's last Rocket ride.

He also doesn't want to blast off into retirement just yet.

To accomplish his goal of extending his victory parade to a few more laps -- and getting his third World Series ring in the process -- Clemens will have to buck recent American League Division Series history.

Clemens, 41, has struggled in seven ALDS starts dating back to 1995.

He is 1-3 with a 5.08 ERA overall and hasn't won an ALDS game since he shut out the Texas Rangers over seven innings on Oct. 9, 1999.

   Roger Clemens   /   P
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 238
Bats/Throws: R/R

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Since then, he has lost three out of five starts and has garnered two straight no-decisions. In Game 1 of the ALDS last year against the Anaheim Angels, Clemens gave up four runs on eight hits, including a home run, in 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees eventually won the game, 8-5, but they dropped the next three and were eliminated.

Clemens had as good of a 2003 as one could expect from a 41-year-old, going 17-9 with a 3.91 ERA and 190 strikeouts in 211 2/3 innings.

He said before Friday's workout that he knows Saturday could be his grand finale but that he's going to do what he can to postpone his vacation.

"I haven't thought of it that way," Clemens said. "Today is a day of planning and getting things in order for me. I always think positive, so I'm going to think that we are going to win, but I know at some point this season, it will be (over). But hopefully it's not tomorrow."

Clemens officially earned baseball immortality this year, winning his 300th game and notching his 4,000th career strikeout in the same game, a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on June 13.

In other words, he has seared his electric repertoire of pitches and fearsome mound makeup into the conscience of the game for far too long to think there's any trend to his occasionally subpar playoff performances.

That's why he has the utmost confidence that he'll bring his best stuff to Game 3 when the Yankees and Twins lock horns in the Metrodome.

The Twins are hoping to derail those plans on their home turf.

"We know Roger's tough," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's going to be game-on. He's going to be going at it as hard as he can. We have to put the ball in play, bang it around and try to use this turf to our advantage."

Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz also mastered the art of complimenting Clemens while insisting that the Twins can beat him.

"I don't see how anyone would want to do this for 20 years but more power to him," Mientkiewicz said.

"I always think positive, so I'm going to think that we are going to win, but I know at some point this season, it will be (over). But hopefully it's not tomorrow."
-- Roger Clemens

"He's in tremendous physical shape. He's a gamer, a bulldog. He goes right at you. He throws 100 mph, still, at 40. He spots the ball well. He's been in big games before. But we feel pretty confident being in this place that we'll come out swinging."

And Clemens isn't the only Yankee with supreme confidence that the Twins will come out flailing because of the Rocket's big-game experience.

"I hated him when he pitched against me," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He used to beat you all the time. The fact that he was an intimidator ... You could put him on a par, both he and Bob Gibson."

Whether his career ends Saturday in the Metrodome or later this month in the World Series, Clemens' legacy remains, and one of the things he's passed on to his teammates is a growing sense of leadership.

After Tuesday's Game 1 loss in Yankee Stadium, for example, Clemens spoke at a team meeting.

"I don't know if it's because I'm retiring, but I think the guys are coming to me more," Clemens said.

"They are asking me more questions. When they come to you and ask certain things, whether it be Moose (Mike Mussina) wanting to know more about a split-finger or some suggestions ... Andy (Pettitte) and I talk all the time because we work out, but it's mainly about focus."

That's the one thing Clemens will never lose, said Torre, who reiterated that he is amazed at what his big right-hander has been able to accomplish for so many years, particularly this season.

"I just basically wanted to get that 300th victory out of the way so he could just concentrate on baseball, and to end the season, winning, what, 17 ballgames?

"It's incredible."

Doug Miller is a reporter for This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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