Notes: Unit likely to be pushed back

Notes: Unit likely to be pushed back

NEW YORK -- Randy Johnson, who was scratched from his start on Thursday with an inflamed lumbar spine, may not be slotted into the rotation when his next turn comes up on Tuesday against the Devil Rays.

General manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday that Johnson is expected to make a start in the rotation's next turn, but that is likely to be on Wednesday, or possibly even next Friday in Chicago.

"My gut is sometime past Tuesday," Cashman said. "We want to do it right, get it right and make sure it's behind him. We want to make sure that when we give him the ball, it's without restriction."

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said that he has no plan for Johnson over the next couple of days, as the pitcher continues to receive treatment on his balky back.

"When he feels good enough to go out there and throw, do his long tossing and then his side, then I'll feel better about him," Stottlemyre said. "I think he's going to be able to do that, but it's not a definite."

With Jaret Wright coming back on Monday and Aaron Small pitching well, the Yankees can manipulate the rotation to accommodate Johnson's timetable.

For starters: With Wright scheduled to return on Monday and Carl Pavano likely out for the year, that leaves Kevin Brown and Chien-Ming Wang as the remaining starting pitchers on the disabled list.

Brown, who was diagnosed with a lumbar strain and placed on the DL on July 28, will return to Los Angeles sometime next week to be re-examined by specialist Dr. Robert Watkins.

Brown is currently at his home in Macon, Ga., working with a physical therapist on strengthening his back.

"He's feeling better, though he's obviously not pitching," said Cashman, who spoke with Brown on Monday night. "He's not doing functional stuff, he's just doing the back stabilization program that was prescribed."

Wang (right shoulder inflammation) is continuing his throwing program in Tampa, Fla., throwing on flat ground from a distance of 120 feet on Tuesday. According to Cashman, Wang could throw off a mound for the first time early next week.

Bench hamstrung: Ruben Sierra's hamstring injury has limited Torre's options late in games, as the team is currently playing with just four position players on the bench -- only one of which is a legitimate pinch-hitting option.

Backup catcher John Flaherty is tough to use, as the team needs to have a backstop on the bench in case an injury or a pinch-runner takes Jorge Posada out of the game. Bubba Crosby is a defensive outfielder who can pinch-run, while Felix Escalona is a light-hitting backup infielder.

That leaves either Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams or Tony Womack as the other bench player, giving Torre just one potential pinch-hitter to use.

"When Ruben is here, we have two options, so if you want to use one in the seventh, you still have one in the ninth," Torre said. "Now, we have to wait until the eighth or ninth and make a decision."

Sheff gets a break: Gary Sheffield's long-awaited "day off" finally came on Wednesday, as Torre started him as the designated hitter.

Williams returned from a minor shoulder injury to play center field, while Womack got the start in right field. Sheffield went 1-for-4, while Williams and Womack were each hitless.

Sheffield was supposed to DH on Sunday, but when Williams injured his shoulder on Saturday, it forced Torre to put Sheffield back in right field.

"We've been promising him for a week that we'd get him out of there -- not that he's been crying for it -- but he could use a day off," Torre said. "I appreciate the patience he's shown."

On deck: The Yankees open a four-game series against the Rangers on Thursday, as Scott Proctor makes his first Major League start, taking on Texas' John Wasdin.

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