Hernandez returns early from DL

Updated: July 11, 2004, 3:13 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Orlando Hernandez

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.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press