Notes: Big Unit ready to go

Notes: Big Unit ready to go

NEW YORK -- Randy Johnson is ready to make his scheduled start on Sunday, despite a published report that said the Big Unit has been experiencing discomfort in his back.

Manager Joe Torre said before Saturday's game that Johnson "felt fine" while doing his side work on Friday, and that any discomfort he is feeling is the usual wear-and-tear that comes with pitching at 41 years of age.

"If you watch him after every game, he has a pack [of ice] on his shoulder, his back and his knee," Torre said. "Is it something that never existed? No. Otherwise, he wouldn't have constant treatment on those areas."

Torre said that Johnson doesn't throw the usual bullpen sessions between starts, throwing on flat ground instead. The lefty had back surgery in 1996, but hasn't missed any significant time due to back pain since that season.

"It's an ongoing issue when you get ready to pitch, which is why he doesn't do a whole lot between starts," Torre said. "There's nothing that's keeping him from doing what he wants to do, physically."

According to the New York Times, the Yankees were so concerned about Johnson's back prior to his start on Tuesday that they called up Scott Proctor from Triple-A Columbus in case they had to send Tanyon Sturtze to the mound to start in Johnson's place.

Johnson made the start, allowing seven runs in just three innings against the Devil Rays, marking his shortest outing since Aug. 25, 2000, when he lasted just 2 1/3 frames against the Mets.

Torre said that Johnson, who struck out two batters in a scoreless first inning before allowing five runs in the second and two in the third, just "flattened out" after the first, though he wouldn't say that Johnson's back definitely played a part in it.

"It's certainly a possibility," Torre said. "A lot of things go into pitching, especially when you're 6-foot-10. You get out of whack a little and it becomes a domino effect."

New target: For most of the season, the Yankees have been chasing the Orioles for first place in the American League East. As of Saturday, there's a new team atop the division, as the Red Sox overtook the O's for first place on Friday night.

"We used to check how far back we were behind the Red Sox and how far we were from first place," Torre said. "Now we can just look at one number. It's no surprise; they're a very good team."

Boston has won nine of its last 10, while Baltimore has gone 5-5 in that span, losing its 4 1/2-game lead over the Sox. The Yankees, meanwhile, have gone 6-4 in their last 10, staying in the same range behind the Orioles while losing ground to the Red Sox.

"Looking at the standings, it's given us a break," Torre said. "As bad as we've been, we're certainly well within reach of being where we want to be."

With 89 games remaining in the season, Torre knows that his team has plenty of time to catch up with the Red Sox and Orioles, but he also said that the Yanks have to play their best ball to have a chance to accomplish that goal.

"I'm curious, when we start playing up to our potential, how good are we? That's what we have to find out first," Torre said. "When you play 162, the best team wins. From there on out, it's crapshoot in five- and seven-game series."

Jason in, Tino out: Torre started Jason Giambi at first base on Saturday against Mets left-hander Tom Glavine, sending Tino Martinez back to the bench after playing on Friday night.

Torre cited Giambi's numbers against Glavine -- 2-for-5 -- as the reason for the decision, though it is Martinez's 1-for-14 history against the left-hander that likely played a bigger part in the move.

Martinez went 1-for-4 on Friday night, homering in his final at-bat. It was his first home run since May 15.

Running away: Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez rank first and second, respectively, in runs scored in the American League. Jeter has scored 57 runs, while A-Rod has scored 54, tying him with Texas' Mark Teixeira for second place.

The last time that AL teammates finished 1-2 in runs scored was 1983, when Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray topped the league with Baltimore. The last Yankees teammates to top the runs chart were Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, who led the league with 132 runs in 1961.

On deck: The Yankees and Mets meet for the sixth and final time in 2005, closing out this year's edition of the Subway Series. Randy Johnson gets the start for the Yankees, taking on the Mets; Kris Benson.

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.