<
>

Big Unit to miss start vs. O's with back spasms

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Randy Johnson will miss his final
regular-season turn in the New York Yankees' rotation because of
back spasms.

The left-hander had been scheduled to start Thursday night
against Baltimore. The AL East champion Yankees hope he will be
ready for the postseason.

"It's been a progression thing," Johnson said Monday night
after New York beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 16-1. "Let's get it
taken care of, and obviously the regular-season start doesn't mean
much. So we'll get ready for the postseason game."

Johnson is 17-11 with a 5.00 ERA this season.

"My back is locked up right now," he said. "With the rest
we'll hopefully get it well."

The injury means Chien-Ming Wang will likely start the Yankees'
playoff opener next week. Mike Mussina could get the call for Game
2, with Johnson possibly going in Game 3.

"He's experienced some back problems and he's been pitching
with them," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Johnson. "We're
going to shut it down. It doesn't mean he's not going to do
anything. He's still going to work toward the playoff start."

Torre said 43-year old Johnson could have started Thursday if it
was necessary.

"We'll take a chance not pitching him in hopes that he'll feel
good," Torre said.

Johnson hasn't pitched well in his past three starts, allowing
15 runs and 24 hits over his last 17 2/3 innings against Baltimore,
Boston and Tampa Bay.

"My last start, I wasn't effective," Johnson said of
Saturday's 8-0 loss to Tampa Bay. "This start, it bothered me. Get
the treatment and do the things accordingly. Maybe the time off
will help."

Mussina will take Johnson's spot Thursday.

"It's one of those things," Torre said. "You don't want
anybody to be hurt, but again, at least now you have a reason why
he was good and then seemed to struggle."