LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Andy Phillips returned to the Yankees on Thursday after a week-long absence spent attending to his mother, Linda, following a serious traffic accident in Alabama.

Linda Phillips, 53, was seriously injured on Feb. 28, when a tractor trailer ran a red light and slammed into the driver's side of her vehicle, causing significant trauma.

With two surgical procedures complete -- one on a shattered pelvis and hip area and another to attend to clotting issues -- Phillips' mother has stabilized enough that he felt it appropriate to leave her bedside.

"She's getting better every day," Phillips said. "She's doing good. She's responding as much as she can right now. The doctors seem really optimistic about what she's doing and what they've been able to do. It's very encouraging."

Phillips said he had returned home following a workout at Legends Field on Feb. 28 when he received a call from his younger sister, Erin, informing him of the accident.

Erin was in hysterics and Phillips said he barely could make out the sentences, but he understood enough to know that he needed to leave the Yankees as soon as possible. He belonged with his mom in a Birmingham, Ala., hospital.

"It was an emotional roller coaster there for a while," Phillips said.

Cleared by the Yankees to take as much time as he needed, Phillips' ongoing first-base battle with Rule 5 Draft selection Josh Phelps quickly became a complete afterthought.

Manager Joe Torre has said that the absence will not hinder Phillips' chances of making the club, and that the 29-year-old will be able to return to action shortly after returning to baseball activities.

"We don't count the fact that everybody has a heartbeat," Torre said. "I think we all relate to personal things, since what we do is so public. Sometimes I think the private stuff is forgotten, but we all have that side of us."

While in Alabama, Phillips did not work out and was consumed with caring for his family, but he also considered his occupation and what was taking place some 500 miles away in Florida.

Phillips told teammate Andy Pettitte that he had watched one of the left-hander's starts on MLB.com. Once, a Yankees broadcast found its way to a television in Linda's hospital room.

She recognized the symbolism of the telecast, telling Phillips, "Spring Training."

With friends and family by her bedside, Linda Phillips continuously told visitors to continue praying for her health; she was in the Yankees' thoughts as well, with players making telephone calls and sending text messages of support.

A deeply religious individual, Phillips believes the prayers made a difference.

"If you see the wreck and see what happened and the situation, the fact that my mom is alive is a miracle," Phillips said. "We certainly hung on to the word. With all the people that were there and praying, you sensed it made a difference in how my mom was improving."

Linda was taken off an oxygen respirator on Wednesday and is now breathing on her own, which helped Phillips reach the decision to return to Tampa. It did not come without some hand-wringing.

"She's still not as alert as I would have liked," Phillips said. "You always hope you can have a conversation and you can explain what you're doing. But I felt comfortable with where she was in improving, and trying to balance that with knowing that I needed to get back and get going."

For Phillips, the incident marked the second consecutive spring that has been interrupted by personal issues. Last spring, his wife, Bethany, was fighting a rare form of cancer related to a lost pregnancy, an issue Phillips kept quiet even from his teammates until midseason.

This spring's events, Phillips said, have been easier to handle because of the good news he is receiving on a daily basis. Asked about the support his teammates have shown, Phillips grew choked up and emotional.

"It's been pretty overwhelming," Phillips said. "It's been tough -- not only this, but it's been a tough year and a half. To see the way this team and these guys reached out, it makes you proud to call these guys teammates and friends."

Rocket fuel: Roger Clemens' visit to Legends Field on Wednesday only furthered speculation that the future Hall of Famer will eventually find his way into Yankees pinstripes this season, but general manager Brian Cashman doused those rumors with a cold splash of reality.

Cashman said he briefly greeted Clemens, who popped in on the Yankees exhibition game to watch Andy Pettitte work against the Cincinnati Reds. The subject of their conversations was quite tame, Cashman said.

"There were no quiet meetings behind the scenes," Cashman said. "No secret negotiations took place. He just came to watch his buddy pitch."

Cashman said that he felt no need to reiterate the Yankees' interest in adding Clemens to their pitching rotation, given the fact that Clemens' camp is already aware of the organization's thought process and nothing has changed.

"If he wants to play, and wants to play for the Yankees, we have an interest," Cashman said.

Moose hacks: Mike Mussina allowed two runs and four hits in three innings on Thursday against the Braves, including a solo home run to Jeff Francoeur in the second inning.

He was more satisfied with his feel on the mound in his second spring effort than his first, but it was a third-inning at-bat against Braves starter Tim Hudson that truly tickled Mussina's fancy.

Mussina -- a career .178 hitter in 45 at-bats -- flied out to Francoeur in right field, laughing as he returned to the dugout. Mussina said he told Hudson, "Thanks," for throwing him a hit-me fastball; Hudson returned a grin.

"I wasn't even going to swing," Mussina said. "I was going to take three pitches, but when you're throwing 87 [mph] right down the middle, I've got to at least put it in play."

Mussina said that his 44-pitch effort was fine for this point in the spring.

"I had to work a little bit today," Mussina said. "It's still the first 10 days of March. It's still new. It's getting the ball down and away, it's getting breaking balls over the plate. It's the same stuff."

This and that: Right-hander Humberto Sanchez (right forearm tightness) continues to soft-toss on flat ground and could return to a mound by the weekend. He has reported no further stiffness. ... Outfielder Bobby Abreu (strained oblique) has attempted swinging a broomstick and felt no pain. He may begin taking dry swings with a bat this weekend. ... Pettitte will be held back from Monday's game against the Red Sox at Fort Myers, Fla., given the long trip for a night game. Torre said that right-hander Ross Ohlendorf is likely to be awarded the assignment instead.

Quotable: "He'd either have to be hurt, or all his kids are going to have to graduate from high school. I don't know what it's going to take." -- Mussina, on what might eventually prompt Clemens to declare his retirement

Coming up: Carl Pavano (0-0, 4.50 ERA) makes his second start of the spring on Friday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, facing off at Legends Field at 7:15 p.m. ET. Pavano went two innings in his Grapefruit League debut at Clearwater on Sunday, allowing one run. Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright, Kyle Farnsworth and Sean Henn are also scheduled to pitch for New York.

Right-hander Tim Corcoran (0-0, 0.00 ERA) counters for the Devil Rays, who are also planning to throw J.P. Howell, Jae Kuk Ryu, Al Reyes and Gary Glover.