CLEVELAND -- It was the former Yankees manager Casey Stengel who once uttered the phrase, "You have to have a catcher, because if you don't, you're likely to have a lot of passed balls."

Nearly five decades later, the Yankees hope they won't have to rediscover just what the "Old Perfesser" was talking about.

When Jorge Posada had to ask out of New York's 1-0 victory over the Indians on Sunday 12 minutes before first pitch, first-base coach Tony Pena had to hunt down backup catcher Jose Molina and get the veteran understudy stretched out and ready to work with right-hander Chien-Ming Wang.

The results, seven innings of shutout ball from Wang, suited the Yankees just fine. Watching Posada strip off his uniform, knowing he won't be back for 15 days at the earliest and probably longer, was much harder to swallow.

"It's the leader of this team, going down like that," Molina said. "It's not easy to take. We were hoping that it was just for a little bit and not for long. We need his bat and we need the leadership that he brought to the team. To me, it's no disrespect. I know my job and what I came here to do."

"He's a good hitter and a good catcher," Wang said. "If the team loses him, they lose a lot."

With no other catchers on the Major League roster, Molina suddenly becomes a much more important figure. The Yankees will make a move to add another player -- likely Triple-A catcher Chris Stewart -- but for the moment, the 32-year-old Molina is expecting to be pressed into service as an everyday catcher after spending most of his career as an understudy.

"Obviously, we're going to miss Jorge Posada, but other guys have to step up and find a way," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "All teams are dealt injuries, and you have to find a way if you want to win a championship."

"If I see my name in the lineup, I'm just going to go and play hard," Molina said. "It doesn't matter if I play every day or not."

The Yankees were down two catchers earlier this month when Posada sat out with a strained right shoulder and Molina suffered a strained left hamstring on April 13 in Boston, prompting New York to summon Triple-A catcher Chad Moeller.

Moeller remained with the club through Friday, batting .350, but the Yankees were confident enough in Posada's progress to designate Moeller for assignment and hope to pass him through waivers on his way to the Minor Leagues. The move backfired with Posada's recurring injury, and now the Yankees won't know if Moeller is their property for several days.

Regardless, the Yankees' pitchers have grown comfortable with Molina, who was acquired last July 28 from the Angels and should now have his chance on center stage.

"He's phenomenal," Joba Chamberlain said. "He's done it his whole life. The guys love working with him, and knowing the guys and knowing everything that goes along with it, it's going to be great for us."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Mike Mussina (2-3, 4.94 ERA)
Mussina had his best outing of the young season Wednesday in Chicago, limiting the White Sox to a pair of solo homers over seven innings. Mussina shied away from his curveball and induced ground balls with his two-seam fastball, passing Bob Gibson for sole possession of 42nd place on baseball's all-time wins list with 252. Mussina is 4-3 with a 5.88 ERA in 10 career starts at Progressive Field.

CLE: LHP Aaron Laffey (4-2, 4.56 ERA in 2007)
Because of Thursday's doubleheader with the Royals, the Indians need a spot starter for this game, and the 23-year-old Laffey will get the call. Laffey filled in admirably in the last two months of '07 after Cliff Lee was demoted to Buffalo. Laffey went 4-2 with a 4.56 ERA in nine starts, and he pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. In his first four starts at Buffalo, the 23-year-old was 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA, striking out 20 and walking six in 26 innings.

Tidbits
Melky Cabrera has hit safely in 18 of 24 games. ... Mariano Rivera is 7-for-7 in save situations this season and has not allowed a run in 10 innings. ... Cleveland's Victor Martinez has a nine-game hitting streak. ... Grady Sizemore did not play Sunday, ending his consecutive games played streak at 382. It was the longest active streak in the Major Leagues; Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur now holds the active streak with 351 games. ... Derek Jeter tied Joe DiMaggio for fifth place on the Yankees' all-time list with 389 doubles on Sunday.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
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Up next
• Tuesday: Tigers (Kenny Rogers, 1-3, 7.66) at Yankees (Phil Hughes, 0-3, 7.85), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Tigers (Jeremy Bonderman, 1-2, 4.28) at Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 3-2, 3.23), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Tigers (Nate Robertson, 0-3, 6.91) at Yankees (Ian Kennedy, 0-2, 8.53), 7:05 p.m. ET