NEW YORK - While even casual baseball fans began to suspect that many of baseball's hitters have used steroids over the last 20 years, the possible use of performance-enhancing substances by pitchers has been overlooked for the most part.

That changed dramatically yesterday when 300-game winner Roger Clemens was named as one of 85 players linked to steroid use in the Mitchell Report.

The Rocket, one of the most celebrated pitchers of his era, allegedly was introduced to steroids while a teammate of admitted user Jose Canseco with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998.

Brian McNamee, an associate of former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, was then the strength and conditioning coach for the Blue Jays. He told Mitchell's investigators that Clemens approached him near the end of a road trip and asked for help in injecting him with Winstrol.

He further testified that he injected Clemens four times in the buttocks over the remainder of the season and that his performance improved noticeably in that time.

Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, reacted sharply to the allegation.

"I have great respect for Senator Mitchell," he said in a statement. "I think an overall look at this problem in baseball was an excellent idea. But I respectfully suggest it is very unfair to include Roger's name in this report. He is left with no meaningful way to combat what he strongly contends are totally false allegations. He has not been charged with anything, he will not be charged with anything and yet he is being tried in the court of public opinion with no recourse. That is totally wrong. There has never been one shred of tangible evidence that he ever used these substances and yet he is being slandered today."

Clemens was traded to the Yankees in 1999. A year later, McNamee followed him to the Bronx. He claimed he was hired as assistant strength and conditioning coach at Clemens' urging.

McNamee said during that season he injected Clemens with both testosterone and growth hormone in 2000 and again with steroids in 2001 and continued to train with Clemens even after being dismissed by the Yankees.

Unlike some of players mentioned, the Mitchell Report does not include photocopies of checks or money orders from Clemens to either McNamee or Radomski. *