Notes: Mussina deals with uncertainty
No longer secure part of rotation, righty set to start Wednesday
KANSAS CITY -- Mike Mussina has seen his role constantly change in the past 10 days. He has lost his spot in the Yankees rotation, been placed in long relief and been the probable starter for Sunday. Now, Mussina is the Yankees' scheduled starter for Wednesday against the Blue Jays.
"I was kind of taking it one day at a time," Mussina said. "It was a little bit challenging, considering my frame of mind wasn't very good to begin with."
The problems started when Mussina, a 247-game winner throughout his 17-year career, lost three straight starts and posted a 17.69 ERA over 9 2/3 innings. The right-hander lost his spot in the rotation to rookie Ian Kennedy and was put in limbo. Kennedy pitched seven innings and allowed just one earned run in his Major League debut and threw five innings of two-run ball on Friday night.
Mussina didn't have a role for a few days and was uncertain that he would make another start for the Yankees this season.
"Honestly, I didn't know," Mussina said. "I can count and I can look at the schedule, and I knew that if nobody got hurt and if Kennedy pitched well at all, then maybe I wasn't going to. We have some off-days mixed in there -- we've got another one Monday and another one next week. I really didn't know."
Then Roger Clemens left Monday's start against the Mariners with right elbow discomfort. Clemens had a cortisone shot in his elbow and is not currently traveling with the team. Manager Joe Torre said that Clemens threw on Saturday and is expected to pitch next Sunday against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Clemens' pain moved Mussina back into the rotation, originally scheduled to pitch on Sunday against the Royals. But that plan was also altered.
"I didn't know what was going on for a couple of days," Mussina said. "They said I was going to pitch one day, then I didn't, then I got changed. It's been more day-to-day the last 10 or 12 days."
Mussina has handled the entire process. At first, he was upset at the change but didn't let his feelings hurt a clubhouse that has posted baseball's best second-half record.
"I was frustrated with it and I was mad, then it just became what it is," Mussina said. "I can't go back and change anything. Whether I agree or disagree doesn't really change anything. Sometimes you have to deal with things that you're not expecting or you're not used to dealing with."
Mussina has shown no ill will toward Kennedy. The veteran right-hander congratulated Kennedy after the rookie's successful Major League debut and, like the rest of the club, is more concerned with winning. With Saturday's 11-5 win over Kansas City, New York remained three games ahead of Detroit in the American League Wild Card race.
"There's a lot bigger things going on out here than me," Mussina said. "We're trying to win baseball games, and we're on the verge of coming back from way out of nowhere to get in to the postseason, so there's a lot bigger issues out there than me. So I'm avoiding all the problems, saying something I didn't want to say or not making sure I was in the right frame of mind to talk.
"If you jump out there in the wrong frame of mind, a lot of stuff will come flying out of your mouth which you don't want to say."
When the Yankees made the decision on Wednesday to pitch Chien-Ming Wang on Sunday and push Mussina back to the Toronto series, Mussina went straight to Torre and said that he would pitch in relief. Mussina was available on Friday and warmed up when Kennedy suffered some early trouble. Mussina did not appear in Friday's game.
"That was all him," Torre said of Mussina. "We certainly appreciated that."
Now, Mussina is locked into his between-start preparation, which he hasn't experienced in several weeks. He understands that this could be a one-start shot if Clemens returns to the rotation, or he could make a turn every fifth day. But he isn't looking too far ahead.
"What's going to happen on Wednesday, I have no idea, because it's been a while," Mussina said. "My arm is in pretty good shape, but I haven't been pitching. Throwing in the 'pen and pitching in games are not the same, so we'll have to see how I feel, if I can get the ball where I want to and can be effective."
If Mussina pitches poorly -- or if Clemens returns -- Mussina could return to the role he has had for the past two weeks. He won't be a long reliever and won't be a starter. He'll just be going "day by day" again.
"We don't know about Roger," Torre said. "If that is not the case, then we will see where we go at that point in time. I wouldn't want to think [of him as a long reliever]. I am sure there would be times that he would be the backup guy for a few innings, but to put the long-man tag on him, I think that is not something that I want to do. He may fill a role out of the bullpen on some occasions, but not on a regular basis."
September callups: Torre said the Yankees will have several more callups following Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's season-ending postseason loss on Saturday afternoon.
Torre said he still needed to talk with general manager Brian Cashman, but Kei Igawa, Jeff Karstens, Matt DeSalvo, Sean Henn, Ross Ohlendorf and Bronson Sardinha could join the Yankees on Sunday.
"The pitchers, the guys who really fought this when we were struggling earlier, who came up and won a game, we feel like we should reward them for that," Torre said.
More Joba: After he tossed two shutout innings on Friday night, Joba Chamberlain has strung together 14 1/3 scoreless innings to begin his Major League career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the longest streak by a Yankees pitcher to begin his Major League career since Jim Bouton pitched 15 shutout innings in 1962.
According to organizational rules, the rookie right-hander must have one day off for every inning he pitches. Because of Monday's off-day, Chamberlain will not be available until Tuesday. On Friday night, Chamberlain's father, Harlan, saw him pitch for the first time in person in a Major League game. Harlan will remain in Kansas City for the final two games of the series even though his son won't see action.
Torre said that the rules will not be altered because of Monday's off-day. Chamberlain will be considered unavailable the rest of the series.
Bombers bits: Derek Jeter's seventh-inning run on Friday night was the 1,366 of his career and tied Bernie Williams for fifth place on the all-time Yankees list. ... Alex Rodriguez's second-inning solo homer off Gil Meche on Friday was his 49th this season and moved him into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time Yankees single-season home run list. His 135 RBIs stood fifth. ... Ron Villone was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and became the only left-hander in the Yankees bullpen. ... Kevin Thompson, who was designated for assignment last week, was claimed off waivers by the A's on Thursday.
Yanks rundown: Four Minor League affiliates have qualified for postseason play this season. Scranton Wilkes-Barre lost in its best-of-five first round series on Saturday to Richmond, 3-1. ... Double-A Trenton is down, 2-1, in its best-of-five first-round series after its 3-2 win on Friday. ... Class A Staten Island will start its first-round series against Brooklyn on Sunday. ... The GCL Yankees won the GCL championship over the GCL Dodgers, 2-1, in a three-game series Aug. 29-31.
Coming up: Wang (17-6, 3.68 ERA) will face right-hander Zack Greinke (6-5, 3.87) in the final game of the series on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. ET.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.