Johnson MRI shows inflammation of the lumbar spine

Updated: August 9, 2005, 2:07 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees sent ailing pitchers Carl Pavano and Randy Johnson for tests Monday before determining the next step in trying to patch up their depleted rotation.

Carl Pavano
Randy Johnson

Pavano was scheduled for two days of tests with Dr. James Andrews in Alabama, and manager Joe Torre said the team would probably have more information Tuesday night.

The right-hander hasn't pitched since June 27 because of tendinitis in his right shoulder, but rehabilitation apparently hasn't helped much and the injury could be more serious than originally thought.

Johnson's next start is in doubt because of back pain, though Torre said the left-hander was feeling better Monday. Johnson had an MRI that showed inflammation of the lumbar spine. He is day-to-day and will be re-evaluated Tuesday.

If the Big Unit can't make his next turn, the Yankees will need to find a starter for Thursday night against Texas. Torre said it would not be Hideo Nomo, who made his second start last Saturday with Triple-A Columbus and would be on full rest Thursday.

"My guess is, if he was ready he would have been the name they gave me, and it wasn't," Torre said before Monday night's game against the White Sox.

Right-hander Scott Proctor is a possibility if he isn't used heavily out of the bullpen during the three-game series against Chicago, or another pitcher from the minors could fill in for Johnson.

"We'll have somebody ready for Thursday if he's not able to answer the bell," Torre said. "We'll figure it out."

The Yankees have used 13 starting pitchers this season, their most since 1991. New York is also missing injured starters Kevin Brown, Chien-Ming Wang and Jaret Wright.

Designated hitter Ruben Sierra, on the disabled list since July 19 with a strained left hamstring, also was scheduled for an MRI on Monday. And Bernie Williams sat out again with a sore right shoulder but was feeling better according to Torre and isn't expected to go on the DL.

The Yankees did make one roster move Monday. They optioned first baseman Andy Phillips to Columbus and recalled infielder Felix Escalona from the Clippers.

Torre hopes to give shortstop Derek Jeter and third baseman Alex Rodriguez a breather sometime soon, and Escalona could be inserted to do just that.

"Those guys have been playing every day," Torre said. "We felt we just needed a little more support in the middle of the infield."

Phillips was 6-for-36 (.167) with one home run and four RBI in 16 games spanning four stints with the Yankees this year.

The 26-year-old Escalona was hitting .274 with seven homers and 42 RBI in 85 games at Columbus. He went 0-for-8 during a brief stint with the Yankees last season.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press