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National League Championship Series: Chicago vs. Florida
/ REPORT

Clement Says Marlins Stronger With Willis

October 11, 2003|From Associated Press

MIAMI — The way right-hander Matt Clement figures it, the Florida Marlins got the better end of the deal when they traded him to the Chicago Cubs last year.

Clement said Friday that the Marlins "might be ahead in the trade" because they dumped Clement's $2.5-million salary in exchange for young left-hander Dontrelle Willis.

"He's brought baseball back to life down here, which is great," Clement said. "I think it's worked out great for both of us, which is how trades should go. But if you want to grade the trade, the Marlins might be ahead because he's so young and he's left-handed."

Clement and Willis were part of a six-player trade involving the teams in March 2002, only days before the start of last season. The Marlins sent Clement and reliever Antonio Alfonseca to the Cubs in exchange for Julian Tavarez and three minor leaguers, including Willis.

The deal has been a hot topic this week, especially with Clement and Willis starting opposite each other tonight in Game 4 of the series.

"My first initial thought was, 'Why me? What did I do wrong?' " Willis said. "But that's just me being naive to the system. It's a business as well as it is a game. Unfortunately, I had to part with the team I was drafted with. But it played out well. I'm happy to be a Marlin, and hopefully I'm a Marlin for a long time."

At first, Marlin fans were angry about the trade. They had no idea Willis -- essentially a throw-in -- would have such an influence. The 21-year-old rookie went 14-6 with a 3.30 earned-run average this season and was a major reason for the team's turnaround.

Clement, 29, is 26-23 with a 3.85 ERA in two seasons with the Cubs. Alfonseca is 5-6 with 19 saves and a 4.86 ERA during the same span.

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Mike Lowell has a souvenir with which to remember his game-winning pinch-hit home run in Game 1 -- a play-by-play message on his answering machine from former Florida Marlin teammate Kevin Millar.

Millar, now with the Boston Red Sox, called the machine while Lowell was at bat and began to describe the drama at Wrigley Field.

Lowell plans to dub the message onto a tape as a keepsake. And he said Millar has a future in sports broadcasting "if it's rated X."

*

Umpire crew chief Jerry Crawford returned for Game 3 of the series. He left Game 1 in the fourth inning with pneumonia and was in left field Friday night.

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