Vazquez to start home opener

Updated: April 2, 2004, 8:49 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- A day after returning from Japan, the New York Yankees were back at their spring training camp Friday, trying to shake off the jet lag.

"I feel pretty good. Just every once in a while you find yourself yawning," manager Joe Torre said. "I got up yesterday morning and my wife and I went and had a late breakfast, early lunch. Went out and played golf."

After splitting the two-game series against Tampa Bay in the Tokyo Dome, Torre had to set his rotation for next week, when the season resumes with another two-game series against the Devil Rays, this time across the bay in St. Petersburg.

Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown, the pitchers in Tokyo, will face the Devil Rays again next week. Javier Vazquez will start the home opener Thursday against the Chicago White Sox.

"I'm thrilled," Vazquez said. "I'm ready to go."

Vazquez didn't make the trip to Japan because he wasn't needed. He made his last tuneup start Friday, allowing two runs over six innings in a Triple-A game against Philadelphia.

Vazquez went 13-12 with a 3.24 ERA in 34 starts for Montreal last year. He's looking forward to his first start in Yankee Stadium.

"I don't think I can imagine it until I'm there," he said. "I know it's going to be awesome."

Mussina, who hated the travel, lost the season opener 8-3 Tuesday, allowing five runs and 10 hits in five innings.

"I want to get Moose out there and try and get that taste out of his mouth," Torre said.

Brown gave up one run and six hits over seven innings in the Yankees' 12-1 win Wednesday.

No. 4 starter Jose Contreras will pitch Saturday's exhibition game against Detroit and will be followed by Donovan Osborne and Jorge De Paula, competing for the fifth spot while Jon Lieber recovers from an injured right groin. Lieber won't return until May at the earliest.

Most of the Yankees had a good time in Japan.

"I'm a little tired, that's for sure," said Tony Clark, who didn't get much sleep Thursday night. "It was worth it."

CF Bernie Williams played in the Triple-A game and went 1-for-4 with a walk and was hit by pitch from Randy Wolf. Williams, recovering from a Feb. 26 appendectomy, is scheduled to play Saturday, his first game with the Yankees this spring, and hopes to be ready for Tuesday. ... Torre and Mel Stottlemyre watched the Triple-A game. While Stottlemyre was in uniform, Torre wore blue jeans and a golf shirt and was carrying a cigar. ... Philadelphia's Jim Thome went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts against Vazquez. ... RHP Paul Quantrill, who bruised his right knee in the opener, threw 10 minutes off a bullpen mound and is scheduled to pitch in Sunday's spring training finale. He expects to be ready Tuesday. RHP Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez could throw batting practice Saturday for the first time since shoulder surgery last year. ... CF Kenny Lofton has a sore toe, but took part in the workout. Torre said Lofton will hit leadoff Saturday. He had been dropped to ninth in Japan.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press