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07/28/07 8:39 PM ET

Notes: Proctor enduring rough stretch

As trade deadline looms, relievers primary topic of rumors

BALTIMORE -- When Scott Proctor burned his equipment near the Yankees' dugout on the last day of June, he joked that he hoped to put his struggles behind him after taking losses in back-to-back appearances.

It didn't work.

Proctor surrendered a solo home run to the Orioles' Kevin Millar in New York's 4-2 loss on Friday, the fourth homer he has allowed in his last six innings of work over a six-game span.

"I saw a fastball down the middle that went out of the ballpark," manager Joe Torre said after the game. "It's cause for concern. He's had success against Millar in the past. He's obviously not locating his pitches the way he needs to be."

Proctor didn't speak to the media before Saturday's game, but Torre expanded on his thoughts about his laboring right-hander.

"We're not going to stop using him, but he just needs to get his confidence back," Torre said. "This game is all about your mind. We'll just keep working it until we feel more comfortable with it."

Proctor, who allowed four home runs in the first three months of the season, had given up four in a month only once in his four-year career. But Millar's blast tied that mark and continued the troubling trend for Proctor, who is signed with the Yankees through the end of the season.

With the trade deadline just three days away, Proctor's name has been tossed around in various rumors. The New York Post reported that Tampa Bay is interested in the 30-year-old reliever and could use him as a starting pitcher.

Last season Proctor endured a similar rough patch, when his ERA jumped to above 5.00 in May and June. Torre said that Proctor has a tendency to try to be too fine when he's struggling and needs to widen his target area and not be afraid to walk batters.

"He has a habit of going harder," he said. "He's a tough kid and he keeps coming at you, but I think maybe a year ago, it may have been a little bit easier for him [to pitch through a slump]. He's got a little more experience and you sort of rely on it a little bit more, which adds to the pressure."

To deal or not to deal? Trade talks are heating up in the final days before Tuesday's trade deadline, and most rumors swirling around the Yankees involve bringing in relievers.

But Torre said that even if the team doesn't bring in another arm, he has confidence in the Yankees pitchers, both in the bigs and in the Minor League system.

"I don't think it's the worst thing that could happen, not making a deal for a reliever," he said. "Within the organization, whether it's here or developing below, I think we have the ability to fill the spots if we need them filled. There are a lot of people getting healthy down there right now."

Young talents within the system include 24-year-old righty Jeff Karstens, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a fractured fibula, and 21-year-old right-handers Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. Karstens made a rehab start with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday and took a no-decision after throwing six scoreless innings.

Chamberlain, selected in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, pitched a five-inning shutout for Scranton last week. Hughes is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA at Triple-A and could fill the fifth spot in the rotation vacated by Kei Igawa, who was sent down on Friday.

"Certainly, in our bullpen, you can't keep going back to the same people," Torre said. "You need guys to get days off. It's not impossible, but you're relying a great deal on your starters in order for that to happen."

A-rod watch: Just one home run away from becoming the 22nd player in Major League history to hit 500, Alex Rodriguez will face a favorable matchup on Sunday if he goes homerless against young lefty Brian Burres on Saturday. When he steps into the batter's box on Sunday, he'll face Orioles righty Daniel Cabrera, against whom Rodriguez has had success in the past.

A-rod is 8-for-20 (.400) against Cabrera with two home runs, No. 371 in 2004 and No. 428 in 2005. He has also hit every hundredth homer -- 100, 200, 300 and 400 -- on the road.

Quotable: "He's done a great job for us. He really has." -- Torre, on first baseman Andy Phillips, who has started 26 of the team's last 28 games and is hitting .330 (32-for-97) over that stretch

Up next: The Yanks will play the final game of their three-game set against Baltimore on Sunday when righty Chien-Ming Wang (11-5, 3.57 ERA) faces the hard-throwing Cabrera (7-10, 5.04). The first pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET.

Geremy Bass is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.