Forget the past. The Boston Red Sox are not the same team that Oakland swept 4-0 in the 1988 American League playoffs.

"We have 16 players that we've acquired in the last two years, including five this year," General Manager Lou Gorman said Friday as the Red Sox prepared for Saturday night's opening game against the Oakland Athletics."I've been here seven years and this is the third time we've been to the playoffs. This is the greatest.

"This is a major accomplishment, just being where we are now. Nobody thought we had a chance to win our (East) division. It's almost like a miracle. But we must be doing something right, too."

In losing to the Athletics in 1988, Boston used 20 players. Ten no longer are on the 25-player roster, and one, second baseman Marty Barrett, has lost his starting job.

The five newcomers acquired since the end of the 1989 season have made a major impact. They are relief ace Jeff Reardon, catcher Tony Pena, reliever Larry Andersen and outfielders Tom Brunansky and Mike Marshall.

However, Gorman and manager Joe Morgan don't overlook a few others completing their first full season with the club, including pitcher Greg Harris, reliever Jeff Gray, picked up after being released by Philadelphia, and Dana Kiecker, a 29-year-old rookie right-hander.

"The amazing thing about all this is that we won without giving up our future," Gorman said. "We looked for a starting pitcher for months, but others clubs wanted an arm and a leg in return.

"We refused to mortgage our future and things worked out well for us. We ended up with a group of over-achieving, gutty players who believed in themselves. There was good chemistry all the way."

On their last visit to Boston, Oakland's defending World Series champions ended the Red Sox' 10-game winning streak with a three-game sweep for an 8-4 season series advantage.

"The shellacking they gave us the last time they were here has no bearing at all," Morgan said. "We're starting all over. And the fact they're the favorite doesn't make one iota of difference."

All year Morgan has said, "When we hit, we win. It's a simple as that."

Now his outlook isn't much different as the Red Sox open the playoffs with two games at Fenway Park, the same as in 1988.

"We've got to do well in this park if we're going to beat them," Morgan said. The Red Sox won 51 home games during their 88-74 season.

Meanwhile, Roger Clemens, the Red Sox' two-time Cy Young Award winner and starting pitcher Saturday, refused to appear briefly at a news conference.

Boston pitching coach Bill Fischer pinch-hit for his ace, saying that Clemens (21-6) was ready for his second start since missing 24 days last month with shoulder tendinitis.

"We weren't sure he was ready when he pitched last Saturday against Toronto," Fischer said. "And Joe (Morgan) and I just looked at each other when he threw his first warmup toss into the other bullpen.

"Then he went out and pitched six shutout innings. What a lift that was in our fight with Toronto for first place. Nothing he does surprises me any more.

"Roger threw the other day and he felt fine. He's up there at 92 to 95 miles an hour, and no one will have to pump him up."

When asked how long Clemens might go against Oakland, Morgan said, "He might pitch nine, who knows? He's had a lot of rest."

Noting that the Athletics were countering with longtime Red Sox nemesis, Dave Stewart (22-11), who is 6-1 lifetime against Clemens, Boston outfielder Mike Greenwell said, "He's a great pitcher. He's not just tough on this team, he's tough on a lot of other teams."

But he added, "If we can score runs, Roger can beat anybody. So we just have to give Roger a lead, give him a chance to do his thing."