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Notes: Rotation swap not set in stone

Kennedy given chance, but Mussina not forgotten by Torre
08/29/2007 9:49 PM ET
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com

Mussina will miss his next start. (AP)
NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina won't start, and he won't pitch in relief -- Yankees manager Joe Torre confirmed that much on Wednesday. So for now, Mussina won't be doing much of anything.

"We're dealing with this like he's skipping a start," Torre said. "We'll just try to keep him on schedule like he's going to pitch in two starts."

That doesn't necessarily mean that he will. Torre first wants to see rookie Ian Kennedy in action on Saturday, before deciding whether to give Mussina his job back or not. And with a strong performance, Kennedy could very well win a spot in the Yankees' rotation -- perhaps for the remainder of the season.

"If he comes in here and pitches very well," Torre said, "then I think we're cheating ourselves unless we look at him again."

Torre spoke with Mussina at length on Wednesday about the decision, after talking with him only briefly to break the news on Tuesday evening. He didn't want rumors to linger, but without much time to expound prior to the first game of a critical series against the Red Sox, he couldn't delve into details with Mussina.

"Yesterday kind of caught him off guard," Torre said. "Not that he didn't expect the conversation."

For the second straight day, Mussina declined comment to the media prior to Wednesday's game.

There's still a decent chance that Mussina could rejoin the rotation this season -- especially if the 22-year-old Kennedy falters. But even if he doesn't, general manager Brian Cashman insisted that Mussina remains a part of the club's long-term plans. He still has one year remaining on the two-year, $22.5 million contract he signed last winter.

"I honestly believe that he's going to come back and be successful pitching for us," Cashman said.

Generation next: Kennedy will join Joba Chamberlain as the second Yankees player to make the big club just one season removed from the First-Year Player Draft, and he will join Phil Hughes as the second rookie in a rotation traditionally dominated by veterans.

Yet there's precedent here, and you don't have to go back to the mid-1990s to find it. Torre said that the Yankees began realizing just how much their farm system could help when Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang both came on as rookies to significantly bolster the club in 2005. Since that year, the Yankees have worked diligently not only to keep the prospects they drafted, but to give those kids an extended shot in the big leagues.

"Wang was just ridiculous," Torre said, comparing his demeanor to that of Hughes and Chamberlain -- and, he hopes, Kennedy. "He came up here and had a calmness about him that sort of paid off. The combination of him and Cano that year opened up our eyes."

And how's this for perspective: Kennedy and Hughes will become part of the same rotation, at the combined age of 43. Roger Clemens, a member of that same rotation, celebrated his 45th birthday earlier this month.

Gloveless: Hideki Matsui was the designated hitter for a second straight game on Wednesday, and for the fifth time in the last seven games. Being bothered by two bad knees, Matsui has now served as the designated hitter 21 times -- a career high since coming to the Yankees from Japan.

Matsui was bothered earlier this year by his left knee, which has in turn created some problems with his right one.

"He had the one knee that's sort of been an ongoing thing," Torre said. "This is the other knee. Because the one knee bothers you, so you put the stress on the other one."

While Matsui has said he enjoys spending a day or two as the DH -- as his .321 average in that role can attest -- he also noted that he's eager to return to the field, whenever that may be.

"Honestly, I'm not sure," Matsui said through an interpreter. "I can't really put a number on it, exactly when. But I don't think it's too far in the future."

Bombers bits: Jason Giambi started earned a start at first base on Wednesday because of his numbers against Red Sox starter Josh Beckett -- only a .242 average, but four career home runs. ... Torre said that Manny Ramirez's absence from Boston's lineup helped not only to eliminate arguably Boston's second-greatest power threat, but to neutralize the greatest one. With Ramirez out of the lineup, Torre noted that he would pitch around David Ortiz if the need surfaced. Ramirez and Ortiz are the only two current Red Sox players to homer off Clemens.

Coming up: Wang (15-6, 3.95 ERA) has won two straight starts after two mediocre outings, and he will look to win his third straight in Thursday's series finale against the Red Sox. He'll take on Curt Schilling 8-5, 4.11 ERA) at Yankee Stadium in a 1:05 p.m. ET matinee.

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