Rivera expected to be ready Tuesday

Updated: June 13, 2004, 9:08 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Add closer Mariano Rivera to the list of ailing star pitchers on the New York Yankees' staff.

Rivera was unavailable to pitch Sunday in the Yankees' 6-5, 12-inning victory over the San Diego Padres.

Mariano Rivera
Relief pitcher
New York Yankees
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
G IP W-L SV SO ERA
34 35.2 0-0 26 28 1.01

"I was not going to use Mo today," manager Joe Torre said. "He was a little uncomfortable. He had a little tightness in his back."

Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre weren't too worried about Rivera.

"I would be surprised if he's not ready to go Tuesday," Torre said.

While Rivera has appeared in a league-leading 34 games this season, Stottlemyre doesn't think it's a problem because Rivera has only pitched two innings twice, and has worked 35 2/3 innings in getting a league-leading 26 saves in 27 opportunities.

"Gordon has taken care of the big load," Stottlemyre said. "That we used to have to use Mo in the eighth -- Flash has taken care of that."

The Yankees are also down two starters. Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina were both hurt this week and are limited to playing catch.

Tanyon Sturtze will make his first start for the Yankees on Wednesday.

Manager Joe Torre made the decision Sunday after putting it off for several days. Torre wanted to see how Brown's troublesome back responded to treatment since he had to leave his outing after two ineffective innings Wednesday against Colorado with spasms.

"When he feels ready, we'll slot him in," Torre said.

Torre was able to put off a decision on his rotation for the series in Arizona because the Yankees have an off day Monday. Jose Contreras will start Tuesday in place of Brown, on his normal rest, and Sturtze will pitch Wednesday in Mussina's spot. Torre still has not announced a starter for Thursday.

Brown and Mussina each played catch before the game, and they reported progress.

"It's one step in the right direction," Brown said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow and make sure there are no adverse reactions to what I did today.

"It's just getting to the point where it feels loose," he added.

The 39-year-old Brown, who said he felt as if "steel rod" had been jammed into his back Wednesday, had surgery to repair a bulging disc two years ago.

Brown (7-1) started strong, going 4-0 in March and April. But he's struggled some since, with his ERA steadily climbing from 2.89 on May 11 to 4.13. Torre said Brown's back has been aching since the start of the season.

Mussina, 35, left his start Friday against the Padres after three innings when he felt tightness in his right groin.

He also was optimistic after his throwing session, on flat ground. But Torre wants him to throw twice off a mound before making a decision on his next start.

"I'm assuming they'll just roll me into my next turn," Mussina said. "That's just a guess, nobody has told me anything."

Mussina is 7-4 with a 4.433 ERA and has won his last six decisions. He hopes to pitch next on June 22.

Stottlemyre is optimistic that both of his starters will be ready to return during New York's nine-game road trip and that one might be ready to pitch Saturday, when the Yankees will need a fifth starter.

Sturtze is 1-0 for New York with a 4.15 ERA in five relief appearances spanning 13 innings since being acquired from Los Angeles on May 15.

He was 29-39 with a 5.20 in 159 games -- 80 starts -- with four the Cubs, White Sox, Texas, Tampa Bay and Toronto entering this season. Sturtze had 11 wins in 2001 for the Devil Rays.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press