'Mad' Moose sounds offStruggling veteran was caught off guard about being bumped
Mussina will be skipped in the rotation on Saturday, an idle observer while prospect Ian Kennedy makes his Major League debut against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The move took Mussina by surprise, even though the right-hander's last three starts had yielded a 17.69 ERA.
"It's pretty hard for someone that's been in the rotation for 17 years," Mussina said. "It caught me a little off guard, though I knew I was struggling badly."
After being initially informed of the decision on Tuesday, a hurried discussion as first pitch approached, Mussina and Yankees manager Joe Torre engaged in a more conversational meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
The Yankees do not expect Mussina to pitch out of the bullpen, citing the expected arrival of relief help on Saturday, when rosters expand to 40 players, so for now, Mussina is a starting pitcher without a starting assignment.
"I'm just doing what I'm always doing," Mussina said. "I keep preparing and doing what I'm doing. My job hasn't really changed -- I'm just not doing it this minute."
Mussina admitted that he was quite upset with the move, saying that "it bothered [him] quite a bit." Mussina lost three straight decisions and was tagged for six runs in three innings of a 16-0 loss at Detroit on Monday, though he had lobbied for an opportunity to continue pitching to work through his troubles -- a request that went unfulfilled.
"Do I think I've earned the right to pitch out of it? Maybe," Mussina said. "But I don't know. My job is to pitch, not to make decisions."
Mussina noted that he was rooting for Kennedy to pitch well because the Yankees need wins at this point in the season. Torre said that his conversation with Mussina wasn't especially easy on either party, but the manager said he was satisfied that the necessary messages had come across.
"It takes time for the smoke to clear," Torre said. "But Mike's an intelligent guy. He certainly understands the immediacy and urgency of what's going on here."
Mussina broke his struggles down to two major points. For some time, he said he had not been feeling as though his head was in the right place, speaking of having the idea that no matter what he did with on the mound, he could not control the outcome.
"Every ball I threw, I thought something bad was going to happen," Mussina said.
The other point, something Mussina touched upon in Detroit, was that his body has been feeling physically "beat up." Mussina said he has never completely recovered from the strained right hamstring that sidelined him in April, and also mentioned aches in other body areas as items that could heal with skipping at least one turn through the rotation.
"To get a little extra time here isn't going to hurt," Mussina said.
Much of Mussina's next steps will ride upon what Kennedy, a 22-year-old right-hander, does in his debut performance. If Kennedy pitches well, Torre has left open the possibility that he could stay in the rotation for more than just one start, though the Yankees are conservatively asking Kennedy for just the one game.
For Mussina, the adjustment to life as a starting pitcher left out of the rotation is one that he would rather not have to make. But he is willing to try.
"I've been pitching a long time," Mussina said. "My job has been an important one for a long time. To deal with the last two weeks of my pitching and then this change, it's new. It's something I've never had to deal with. Hopefully it'll make me a better player."