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Clement Slips Away to Boston

Times Staff Writer

The Angels were left as bystanders in the latest arms race between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on Friday when the Red Sox agreed to terms on a three-year contract with coveted free-agent pitcher Matt Clement.

Clement considered the Angels and Dodgers among his five finalists, attracted in part by the franchises’ recent success, but preferred to play closer to his Pittsburgh-area home, according to his agent, Barry Axelrod. Clement’s contract is believed to be similar to the Angels’ final offer of three years and $23 million.

Clement, who was 9-13 with a 3.68 earned-run average last season for the Chicago Cubs, visited with Angel and Dodger officials earlier this week before returning home to narrow a list of suitors that included the Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox.

Axelrod said that Clement, 30, sought input from former Cub teammates Greg Maddux and Kerry Wood and San Diego Padre reliever Trevor Hoffman, among others, before reaching his decision.

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“Matt has said to me that he’s going to look for the place that he is comfortable with for his family and has the greatest chance of winning as a team,” Axelrod said. “He went through some years with the Padres and Florida [Marlins] where August and September didn’t mean much. He wants an organization that has the ability to win now and the commitment to winning for the years that he is going to be there.”

If everything checks out well in a physical, Clement will be introduced next week in Boston as the newest member of a rotation that recently lost Pedro Martinez to the New York Mets.

The Red Sox are bracing for the possibility that the Yankees may land five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson in a three-team trade involving the Dodgers.

The Angels’ failed pursuit of Clement, who has a 69-75 career record and 4.34 ERA, increases the likelihood that they will enter 2005 with their current cast of starting pitchers, which includes Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey and Paul Byrd. The Angels were expected to explore trade options for Washburn if they signed Clement.

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“We’re going to go with the best team that we can, and it’s a pretty good team the way it is now,” Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman said. “That’s not to say you’re not looking to be better. I don’t think you’re ever locked in stone.”

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The Angels lost the rights to two once-promising prospects when the White Sox claimed off waivers pitcher Bobby Jenks and the Colorado Rockies claimed shortstop Alfredo Amezaga.

Jenks, who has a 100-mph fastball, was considered a rising star in the Angels’ minor league system until being sidelined three times the last two seasons by stress reactions in his pitching elbow. The right-hander had a pin surgically implanted in his right elbow and is expected to resume pitching in spring training.

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Amezaga has been a solid defender who struggled to hit at the major league level, batting .161 with two home runs and 11 runs batted in last season with the Angels. Amezaga became expendable when the Angels acquired shortstop Maicer Izturis last month in the Jose Guillen trade. The Angels probably would have lost Amezaga if he didn’t make the team out of spring training because he was out of options.


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