Feeling good, Mussina ready for '06

Moose says he's healthy, ready for season

TAMPA, Fla. -- Mike Mussina's spring has been a successful one, most notably for the lack of any pain, discomfort or irritation in his right elbow. Forget the lofty 7.32 ERA, he's ready for the season to begin.

With roughly 20 innings under his belt, the Yankees right-hander now turns his attention to Tuesday night's game in Oakland, when he will officially kick off his 16th season in the Majors.

Mussina's final outing of the spring took place at Legends Field on Thursday, as he allowed two runs over four innings against the Devil Rays. After five starts, Mussina pronounced himself healthy and ready to go, putting any questions that may have been in his own mind to rest.

"We're throwing at full speed, I've thrown all my pitches and I haven't had any trouble," Mussina said. "I don't see any reason why I'd have anything to worry about. Something could always happen; it's a long year. But I don't see any reason to expect my elbow to give me any problems."

"Physically, he's had a great spring, as far as I'm concerned," said manager Joe Torre. "Probably the best one he's had in the last three years. His stuff seems to be sharp. Hopefully we'll see that Tuesday."

Although Mussina's final spring line isn't pretty -- he went 1-1 with a 7.32 ERA, giving up 26 hits in 19 2/3 innings -- he's not concerned about those statistics.

Ten of the 16 runs he allowed came in the span of four innings on March 20 in Lakeland against the Tigers. Take that start away and Mussina's ERA shrinks to 3.46 in his other four starts.

"Aside from four innings in Lakeland, everything else was pretty normal," Mussina said. "One day in Lakeland and the whole spring looks terrible. Now I get to start over again. Everything is back to square one, and we'll get going in the next couple of days."

Mussina missed three weeks last September with an elbow injury, and even after he returned, he didn't feel 100 percent healthy. Pitching all spring without any arm issues was "a really big deal" for the 37-year-old, who is entering the final year of his six-year contract.

"The last time I turned it up to 100 percent, my elbow wasn't feeling too good," Mussina said, referring to the second half of 2005. "No matter what you do in preparation for Spring Training, until you can go out there and turn it up to 100 percent, then walk in the next day and not have any trouble, then get up to 50 and 75 pitches and not have any trouble ... then the anxiety pretty much goes away."

With the health questions out of his mind, Mussina is looking forward to another season in the Bronx. His first five years have produced five American League East titles and two trips to the World Series, but he has been unable to capture that elusive championship ring.

As always, a World Series title is the standard expectation for Mussina and his teammates, so anything short of being the last team standing in October will be considered a wasted season.

"I think we all have high expectations," Mussina said. "I think once you've been here for a year or so, expectations are the same. You learn to accept the outside pressures of what's expected of this club, go out there and be able to play. New guys who come in have to experience it for the first time, understand that it's part of playing for the Yankees.

"I think we have a good team; but I felt we had good teams in the past, too," he added. "This is my sixth year here, and the first five have gone by pretty fast. Hopefully this can be another successful year for us, and maybe it will end with a championship."

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