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Tampa home away from home for New Yorkers

The Florida State League is a long way from the major leagues, but it sure doesn't seem that way for the Tampa Yankees.

The team plays at Legends Field, a small-scale replica of Yankee Stadium, and Tampa is the parent club's spring training home.

This season, though, the big-league experience has had more of a personal touch thanks to several pitchers who have spent more time on the mend than on the mound.

Five major-league pitchers have spent time in Tampa on rehabilitation assignments this season. The latest is Roger Clemens, sidelined by a strained groin. The six-time Cy Young Award winner is scheduled to make a rehab start Saturday against the Sarasota Red Sox at Legends Field.

Sterling Hitchcock and Andy Pettite also have made rehab starts and Orlando Hernandez and Ramiro Mendoza have spent time in Tampa working themselves in shape.

Although their stay may be brief, a major-league arm provides a boost to a staff that has lost several starters to promotion or injury. Despite the shuffling, Tampa is third in the league in ERA (3.68) and is tied with three others clubs for the lead in shutouts (10).

DUNEDIN: The Blue Jays promoted second baseman Dominic Rich to Double-A Tennessee.

Rich, the Jays' second-round pick in 2000, was in his first year at Dunedin. He led the Florida State League in hits (120), on-base percentage (.437) and batting average (.345).

Rich's promotion allows the Jays to move this year's first-round selection, Russ Adams, to Dunedin. Adams played for North Carolina and was taken 14th overall. He played at Auburn before being promoted to Dunedin.

The Jay's 1999 first-round pick, Alexis Rios, is fifth in the league in batting average (.323).

CLEARWATER: The Phillies sent right-hander Rob Tejada to Philadelphia to have his ailing elbow checked out.

Tejada has battled through pain and is 4-8 with a 3.97 ERA. He also has 87 strikeouts in 100 innings. Still, the velocity had slowed on his pitches and the Phillies wanted to play it safe.

Tejada returned to Clearwater this week and will miss his turn in the rotation but should be back next week.

Another pitcher, Taylor Buchholz, was named the 16th best right-hander in the minor leagues according to Baseball America.

Buchholz has won his past four decisions and is 9-5 with a 3.46 ERA. He leads the league in strikeouts (116) and complete games (3).

_ BOB PUTNAM

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