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Bronx bombshell

Clemens returning to New York, not Boston

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Red Sox had their chance to preempt Roger Clemens's elaborately staged announcement yesterday afternoon that he had agreed to pitch for the New York Yankees again.

Clemens's agent, Randy Hendricks, was in Boston last week for meetings with Sox brass Tuesday and Wednesday and had dinner in John W. Henry's box Wednesday night during the Sox-Athletics game when the Sox made their bid for the Rocket. It was for a prorated $18 million, more than $10 million less than the prorated $28 million Clemens agreed to take from the Yankees.

Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, according to club sources, thought Clemens was still days from making a decision -- Lucchino believed this Thursday was the operative date -- leaving the Sox time to tweak their offer if they chose. Instead, the next time the Sox heard from the Clemens camp was yesterday afternoon, when general manager Theo Epstein received a courtesy call from Hendricks -- a similar one was placed to Houston GM Tim Purpura -- informing him Clemens had elected to sign elsewhere.

And a couple of hours later, there was Clemens, holding a microphone in the box belonging to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, announcing during the seventh-inning stretch of the Yankees-Mariners game that he was putting on pinstripes again, legendary PA announcer Bob Sheppard alerting the crowd of 52,553 "of a very special announcement."

"Well, they came and got me out of Texas and I can tell you it's a privilege to be back," Clemens said. "I'll be talking to y'all soon."

Last year, when Clemens announced May 31 that he was returning to the Houston Astros, he was pitching in the big leagues 22 days later. If he follows a similar schedule this time, he could face the Red Sox in Fenway when the Yankees visit June 1-3.

How did Sox players react to Clemens's signing with the Yankees?

"It would have been nice to have him, we didn't need him -- we don't need him," said Curt Schilling, the winning pitcher in yesterday's 4-3 decision here over the Minnesota Twins. "It's May, that's a long way to go. I like the way we're comprised right now. I like the people. This team has incredible makeup, this team has great chemistry. I feel like we were legitimate World Series contenders without him, and that hasn't changed."

What about Clemens going to the Yanks? "I could care less now," said Schilling, who said he did not reach out personally to Clemens this go-round, as he had done in the past. "What is done is done."

Clemens, who technically signed a minor league deal and expects to be back pitching in the big leagues in 3-4 weeks -- will be paid about $18.5 million for four months of work, or more than $4.5 million a month. The Yankees also will be paying a 40 percent luxury tax on the salary, which drives up the monthly tab to more than $6.3 million a month. Assuming Clemens takes a regular turn, that computes to more than $1 million a start.

"If you want to pay that money, you're going to get the guy you want," Sox third baseman Mike Lowell said. "They're a team that's capable of doing it. I think it may have been a three-team race and maybe not even that.

"I think the amount is shocking. But the Yankees had a need, and a pressing need now with their injuries, and they're using one of their best resources -- money. It's kind of what we did with Daisuke [Matsuzaka]. We paid because we wanted him. If we didn't want him that bad, we would have submitted a $20 million bid and said, 'Hey, we tried and lost.' I think the best thing is, we'll see."

The Sox' offer would have paid Clemens $3 million a month; including the tax, the Sox would have paid $4.2 million for the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, who turns 45 in August. Hendricks maintained a factor in Clemens's decision was that the Sox didn't want Clemens until late June and Clemens wanted to come back sooner. Club sources insist that was not the case, and that Hendricks had raised the issue of the timing of the pitcher's return almost as an afterthought.

Club executives, including Epstein and Lucchino, declined to comment. The team released a statement which, in part, read: "We offered a substantial salary and suggested, for health purposes, that Clemens return on approximately the same timetable as last year. Today we learned from Randy that Clemens has signed elsewhere."

Even if the Sox had been given a chance to make a counter offer, club sources said there is no way they would have come close to the Yankees' bid. New York's willingness to lay out that kind of money, in the Sox' view, was a reflection of the desperate straits the Yankees are in, pitching-wise, though the Sox fully anticipated that with or without Clemens, the Yankees would have been tough to beat in the AL East.

"Make no mistake about it, I've come back to do what they only know how to do here with the Yankees, and that's win a championship," Clemens told reporters yesterday. "Anything else is a failure, and I know that."

Clemens helped the Yankees win World Series titles in 1999 and 2000, then left after the 2003 season, saying he intended to retire. But when Andy Pettitte signed with the Houston Astros, Clemens also joined their hometown team.

"I think they were going to get better," Lowell said. "We'll see. I don't see how you can become a worse team if you add Roger Clemens, let's be realistic. But does that mean they're going to win the division? No, because I don't think we're just going to sit and fall flat on our face, as well as any of the other teams in our division. He still has to perform."

The Sox, who have yet to have a starter miss a turn, also have lefthander Jon Lester on the mend. He could be back within weeks. "Maybe he'll be a big upgrade for us," Lowell said. "We'll see how the season pans out."

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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