<
>

Hernandez returns early from DL

NEW YORK -- Orlando Hernandez returned to the mound for the
New York Yankees on Sunday, coming off the disabled list to start
against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Hernandez pitched in place of Mike Mussina, who missed his turn
with a sore right elbow. To make room on the roster, the Yankees
optioned right-hander Juan Padilla back to Triple-A Columbus.

Mussina had tests Saturday and won't need to go on the disabled
list.

"Evidently it came back with inflammation or irritation,"
manager Joe Torre said. "We just need to get that out of there and
it'll be all right."

Mussina thinks he might have tweaked his elbow while batting in
an interleague game against the New York Mets. The right-hander is
not expected to pitch again until next weekend at the earliest,
after the All-Star break.

"We don't think it's serious enough to put him on the DL, but
he will probably be pushed back in the rotation," Torre said.
"He's not concerned so I'm not concerned."

The Yankees got better news about Kevin Brown, on the disabled
list since June 10 because of a strained lower back and an
intestinal parasite.

Brown threw about 65 pitches in the bullpen before Sunday's game
and said everything went well. He expects to have another side
session Tuesday, then possibly go to the minors for a
rehabilitation outing Thursday or Friday.

"It might not be a bad idea," Brown said. "I felt like I
continued to progress today. It was better than the other day. I'm
headed in the right direction. Hopefully, my strength continues to
return."

Padilla was called up from Columbus on Thursday and never got in
a game for the Yankees.

With Mussina ailing, Hernandez was scratched from his scheduled
rehabilitation start Saturday for Triple-A Columbus so he could
travel to New York.

Hernandez, believed to be 38, made his first major league
appearance since 2002. He spent last year on Montreal's disabled
list, missing the entire season after getting hurt in spring
training.

The right-hander had shoulder surgery in May 2003 to repair a
small tear in his rotator cuff. He returned to the Yankees in
March, signing a $500,000, one-year contract.

After defecting from Cuba, Hernandez joined the Yankees for the
1998 season and helped them to three straight World Series titles
and four AL pennants in five years. He went 9-3 with a 2.51 ERA in
the postseason, winning the 1999 AL championship series MVP Award.