<
>

Wright's first start likely April 15

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jaret Wright will be skipped the first time
the New York Yankees go through their starting pitching rotation
this season.

The decision was made because the Yankees have three off days
during the opening 10 days of the regular season.

Randy Johnson had earlier been named the opening day starter for
the April 3 game against Boston. Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina will
also pitch against the Red Sox in the series at Yankee Stadium.
Kevin Brown, Johnson and Pavano are scheduled to pitch during a
weekend series that begins April 8 with Baltimore.

Mussina will pitch at Fenway Park in the Red Sox home opener
April 11. Johnson will also take the hill in the Boston series.

Wright will make his first start at Baltimore on April 15.

"It's not easy when you have five quality people like we
have," Yankees manager Joe Torre said Tuesday. "We just decided
to line them up that way. Maybe we felt Jaret can handle that
physically. And he was fine with it."

Wright will throw in the bullpen or could throw a few innings in
a one-sided or extra-inning game before making his first start.

"Being the fifth starter in April is not the ideal situation,
but it's a job," Wright said. "I kind of know what to expect.
What I have to do. It's an unique situation with the group we have.
The only thing I can really do is try and do everything I can to
stay sharp until I throw."

Johnson made his final spring start Tuesday in a Triple-A game.
He allowed seven runs -- six earned -- and 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings
for Columbus against Toronto's Syracuse club.

"There's something about pitching over there in that minor
league complex that sometimes takes its toll on the pitcher,"
Torre said. "That's not why he was over there to get people out,
he was over there to get his work in and we're pretty confident
that he'll be fine on Sunday."

The left-hander struck out eight, walked one and hit a batter
during the 98-pitch outing.

"It was a frustrating day," Johnson said. "I was kind of
stiff; didn't warm up as good as I would have liked. I got my work
in, that was the biggest thing."

Also, reliever Ramiro Mendoza, who signed a minor league deal
last month, expects to start a throwing program next week.

Mendoza had shoulder surgery in January and is not expected to
pitch in minor league games until May at the earliest.

In other Yankees news, Torre also announced that outfielder
Bubba Crosby won the final roster spot. He beat out Damian Rolls,
Colin Porter and Russ Johnson, who Torre said will all join
Triple-A Columbus for the start of the regular season.