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Location change works

The Tropicana Field mound will be a lot more comfortable for Jeff Weaver tonight. Same dirt, same rubber. Different uniform.

The last time he started here, the gangly right-hander got a no-decision in a 9-5 opening-night loss. That was as a Tiger, the team in the basement of the AL Central.

That was before Detroit traded Weaver to Oakland, which immediately sent him to the Yankees, owners of the AL's best record.

"Obviously I'm a lot more confident going out there (tonight)," he said. "As a pitcher you've got to take the same approach when you go out there no matter who your opponent is. But knowing you can make a few mistakes on this club, it's a lot different."

Weaver, 25, said he was told around midnight July 5 that he'd been traded, "and I was in Yankee Stadium by noon the next day. It was a pretty quick turnaround. That was the toughest part, just trying to get my feet on the ground, get all my clothes in one spot, find a place to stay.

"You've got a lot of things going on when you get traded. You want to get it over with and get back to concentrating on pitching."

Getting Weaver when they did was fortunate timing for the Yankees. Barely a week later Roger Clemens left the starting rotation with a tight right groin and was placed on the disabled list. He's due to come off it this weekend. Which leaves Weaver where?

"It's a nice problem to have," manager Joe Torre said. "We'll see how Roger feels (today and Sunday) and then we'll figure out what to do."

Weaver is 1-0 in three starts for New York. The others ended in Yankee wins, though in his last start, against the Red Sox, he gave up eight runs and five home runs, matching his career highs, before New York rallied to win 9-8.

The no-decisions as opposed to losses he said, "have made it a little easier for me because I've struggled. I haven't thrown as well as I know I can. The adjustment period takes a few games. It's a whole different atmosphere, all new personnel, a whole different feeling.

"It's actually good for me, being on the road, getting away from Yankee Stadium. It'll help me sort things out without (the home-crowd pressure)."

Once Weaver gets more comfortable with his surroundings, Torre said, "I think he's going to light it up. Right now he wants to do better for us and I think he's put a lot of pressure on himself."

Weaver and Raul Mondesi (from Toronto) were two Yankees acquisitions in five days at the start of the month. It's almost as though Torre mused, "I need a pitcher" and owner George Steinbrenner read his mind and got Weaver for him, and "I need a rightfielder" and got Mondesi, too.

"There's no question that if George thinks there's a need on this club he's going to go like hell to get it," Torre said. "Winning is great, but it also enhances the pressure to keep winning, especially in our town where we're not the only game in town. He feels that pressure and I reap the benefits of it."

For now, the benefits go both ways, for Weaver and his new team. In 3{ years in Detroit, he was 2-5 against the Rays. And here's how tough pitching for the Tigers can be: Weaver's first eight complete games were losses.

"I dealt with a lot of stuff in Detroit," said Weaver, 6-8 for Detroit this season, "but it helped make me the pitcher I am today. I think I'm the better for it. At the time it was very frustrating going through it. Now that I'm (with the Yankees) I can look back on it and it doesn't seem so bad."

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