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Clement, Willis Revisit Trade in NLCS

October 11, 2003

MIAMI (AP) _ 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 between the teams in March 2002, just days before the start of last season.

The deal has been a hot topic this week, especially with Clement and Willis starting opposite each other Saturday night in Game 4 of the NL championship 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.″

The Marlins sent Clement and reliever Antonio Alfonseca to the Cubs in exchange for Julian Tavarez and three minor-leaguers.

Marlins fans initially scoffed at the trade. Of course, they had no idea Willis _ essentially a throw-in _ would have such an impact. The 21-year-old rookie went 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA this season and was a major reason for the team’s turnaround.

The 29-year-old Clement 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 over the same span.

``If (the Marlins) knew Dontrelle was going to be that successful that quick, the rest of baseball would be in trouble because they have some good scouts,″ Clement said.

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BIRTHDAY SURPRISE: Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou gave his son, Kirby, a special present for his 6th birthday: a surprise visit from dad.

Manager Dusty Baker gave Alou permission to skip Thursday’s workout so Alou could fly home to the Dominican Republic and see his family. Kirby, Alou’s youngest, turned 6 on Thursday.

``I wanted to surprise him, to pick him up at school,″ Alou said. ``I haven’t seen my kids since September when they left for school. I miss being a dad. I miss picking up my kids at school.″

Alou also wanted to see his grandmother, who is ill.

It’s only an 1 1/2-hour flight to the Dominican Republic, and Alou said he was back by 9 a.m. Friday. He got enough rest when he was at home, and said he was ready for Friday night’s game.

``It’s not like I went to a beach resort and drank two 12-packs of beer and laid out in the sun all day and went jet-skiing,″ Alou said. ``I went home to take care of some things I had to take care of.″

Alou said his son was ``very surprised, very thrilled″ when he got in the car after school and saw his father. Kirby and Alou’s other two sons came back to Miami with their dad for the weekend series.

``I’m not worried about Mo being tired,″ Baker said. ``Actually, I think it will make him better, clear his mind and clear his heart.″

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PLAY-BY-PLAY: 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 Marlins 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.″

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COMING HOME: Now this is the kind of ``road″ trip Sammy Sosa likes.

Sosa lives in Miami in the offseason, so he is staying in his own house this weekend when the Chicago Cubs play the Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium in the NLCS.

``Miami is a place that’s just like the Dominican,″ Sosa said. ``Many Spanish people live here, so do many people from all over the world. I always liked Miami. It’s a good place to relax.″

Sosa won’t have much time to relax, though, with his family from the Dominican Republic attending the games.

Baker isn’t worried that it will be a distraction for Sosa, who came through with big home runs in each of the first two games.

``I think it’s great,″ Baker said. ``I think it’s a wonderful thing for a guy to stay at home, because you feel most comfortable at home. So no. Shoot, sometimes I wish I had a house down here now, rather than staying in a hotel.″

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UMP RETURNS: Umpire crew chief Jerry Crawford returned for Game 3 of the NLCS. He left Game 1 in the fourth inning suffering from pneumonia and was in left field Friday night.

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