Yankees drop series finale vs. Twins
Right-hander Mussina leaves in third inning with leg strain
MINNEAPOLIS-- Kyle Farnsworth had already walked out the door by the time the true impact of the Yankees' Wednesday contest at the Metrodome settled in.
Mike Mussina started the Yankees' eventual 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Twins, but left after two-plus innings due to injury.
The decision may have been charged to Farnsworth, who surrendered four runs in an ineffective eighth inning, but the loss may prove to be Mussina, who will miss at least his next turn around the rotation with a strained left hamstring. While the Yankees are optimistic that Mussina's strain may not be "full-blown," as manager Joe Torre put it, Mussina's absence will further exacerbate what has become a disturbing trend for the Yankees. The season is not even two weeks old, and already two outfielders and two pitchers will have missed time with muscle strains.
"I think injuries happen," Mussina said. "We all kind of did it in a different way, so I'm not sure it's one particular thing. It's frustrating when you have to deal with this stuff and you're counting on people. We're all trying to get back out there and stay out there."
After two scoreless innings, Mussina started the third inning and felt a "grab" in the back of his left hamstring on one of his first pitches to the Twins' Luis Rodriguez. Mussina surrendered a hit and then allowed another single to Alexi Casilla before working a 2-1 count on Luis Castillo, gesturing to pitching coach Ron Guidry in the dugout after his 43rd pitch.
Mussina walked off after a brief examination on the mound, and Torre said that he had taken the baseball once the word "hamstring" was mentioned.
While Mussina said he made no effort to talk the Yankees into leaving him in the game, knowing his own body well enough to recognize that his injury was something more than a non-descript cramp, he hopes to avoid the disabled list and is trying to remain optimistic.
"I could have blown it to the point where I was limping off the field, hurt my arm or did something else," Mussina said. "When you're dealing with muscle pulls and muscle strains, it's certainly not the end of the world."
The Yankees are already down one starting pitcher due to a hamstring strain -- right-hander Chien-Ming Wang would have been New York's Opening Day starter had he not pulled up lame in Spring Training conditioning drills -- and lost outfielder Hideki Matsui on the club's recent homestand, when he pulled his left hamstring running out an infield tapper.
For a brief period, Johnny Damon thought he might serve the first disabled-list stint of his career before his right calf strain -- suffered April 2 in New York -- proved minor. He said the continuing circumstances were unfortunate.
"I wish we could pinpoint it as a team," Damon said. "Whether or not it's the way we're working, or [if] we're all getting old."
Saying that there is nothing the team can do to avoid such injuries, Torre said that the trend is not indicative of a larger problem with the Yankees' strength and conditioning staff.
"I think it's one of those freak things that we've had happen here," Torre said. "Pitchers are different than [position] players anyway. We'll shake it out and see where we are."
After Mussina departed, left-hander Sean Henn was summoned as an injury replacement and turned in 3 1/3 solid innings.
The Twins tied the game after Nick Punto slugged a double leading off the sixth inning and scored on a single to right off Scott Proctor, but Henn -- a converted starter who is progressing in a new role as a reliever -- said he was satisfied with the outing.
"It's definitely not a situation you want to go in, when your starter goes down," Henn said. "It didn't feel like I had pinpoint control all the time, but I was as good as I wanted to be."
The same could not be said for Farnsworth, who faced six batters in the eighth and retired just one. Farnsworth walked Castillo on four pitches to open the frame and surrendered a one-out single to Joe Mauer, giving Minnesota its first lead of the evening.
The Twins continued the barrage against Farnsworth, who allowed a run-scoring single to Michael Cuddyer, an RBI double to Justin Morneau and a run-scoring double to Torii Hunter, before left-hander Mike Myers finally recorded the last two outs of the inning.
"[It was] just lack of command," Torre said. "He was trying to make pitches and he couldn't. [Castillo's] a bad guy to walk on four pitches. He just had trouble locating."
Meanwhile, some Yankees felt they had helped Twins starter Ramon Ortiz, who retired the first nine Yankees to face him before Damon singled to center, opening the fourth.
"We swung at a lot of pitches that weren't close, instead of going after pitches we could drive," Damon said.
Derek Jeter walked and Damon moved to third on a Bobby Abreu flyout before Alex Rodriguez collected his Major League-leading 16th RBI with a sacrifice fly to deep center, but the remainder of Ortiz's effort was stellar.
The right-hander limited New York to a run on three hits in the effort, walking one and striking out three before yielding to Joe Nathan for the ninth inning.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.