Notes: Yanks set starting rotation

Notes: Yanks set starting rotation

PHOENIX -- The Yankees' five-man starting rotation was set on Friday, but for the time being, it actually is a four-man unit.

With two scheduled days off the first two weeks of the regular season, the Yankees can go with a four-man rotation that includes veterans Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina as a solid one-two punch, joined by right-handers Chien-Ming Wang and Shawn Chacon.

"When we need a fifth starter," manager Joe Torre said Friday afternoon, "it will be Jaret Wright."

Exactly when that would be remains up in the air, but Torre and new pitching coach Ron Guidry met with Wright on Friday, explained the situation, and everyone is on the same page.

"[Wright] is fine and understands," Torre said. "He was wondering when we would need a fifth starter, and I told him that [his being the long man for now] was as much information as I had. Our plan with the long man is to not bring him in to get out of trouble. I'm not saying he won't come into a game in the middle of an inning, but basically, he won't come in to get an important out."

Torre said it would be practicably impossible to keep the fifth starter informed as to when he might pitch, but Wright is "ready to deal with whatever we do."

Wright, who had a 5-5 record and 6.08 ERA in an injury-plagued season in 2005, appeared in four Grapefruit League games, going 1-1 with a 9.26 ERA.

But it was more about what Wang and Chacon did last season than anything that happened this spring that landed them starting roles in this season's rotation.

"They pitched well last year, and they didn't do anything to change your mind this year," Torre said. "All those things entered into equation. It didn't come down to Jaret missing a start or anything like that. Last year, Wang and Chacon were our bread-and-butter guys, along with [Aaron Small]. If we don't have them, we don't go anywhere."

Wang, who made his final Spring Training start on Friday night against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field, contributed an 8-5 record in 18 appearances, pitching at least six innings in 15 of his 17 starts. Chacon also gave the Yankees a huge late-season lift, going 7-3 with a 2.85 ERA after being acquired from the Rockies on July 28.

"When Chacon gets in trouble, he seems to be tougher -- which is a very good trait to have for a pitcher," Torre said. "And he's a big cheerleader for our ballclub in the dugout when he's not pitching. He keeps everyone going."

The rotation that begins the season in Oakland on Monday afternoon isn't quite what Torre had in mind. Right-hander Carl Pavano figured to be in the mix, but a freakish injury at first base during a Grapefruit League game means the veteran will begin the regular season on the 15-day disabled list. He suffered an injury to his left buttocks when he dove to first base while making a play.

"I wish Pavano was [healthy]," Torre said. "He was excited about how good he felt coming into Spring Training."

General manager Brian Cashman had a phone conversation with Pavano on Friday and it was decided that Pavano would take this weekend off.

"We're going to take it slowly and get through [the discomfort] before we get him throwing again," Cashman said. "I don't know when that will be. We will shut him down this weekend and see where he's at on Monday."

Pavano had a MRI exam on Thursday night and the results were negative.

A Big Unit homecoming: Johnson returned to the stadium where some of his most memorable moments occurred, and he was surrounded by the media within seconds of walking into the visiting clubhouse.

"I parked my car in the players' parking lot and talked to people I have known over the years," he said. "It's always fun coming back to where you [previously] played. The greatest satisfaction I ever got as a player was being part of a team that did whatever it took to win the World Series."

Johnson spent five years of his career (1999-2003) with the Diamondbacks, leading them to three National League West championships, one NL title and one World Series championship -- 2001 against the Yankees.

"While I was a Diamondback, I had more great moments than at any time of my career," he said.

The 42-year-old captured the NL Cy Young Award in four consecutive seasons for the D-Backs, starting in 1999.

Don't be surprised if there is at least one more in his future.

"Last year was kind of a feeling-out period," he said of his first year with the Bronx Bombers. "This year was a great Spring Training, and I never had that many good Spring Trainings in Arizona. Any player wants to come out of [camp] prepared, and I feel that I am as prepared as I can be.

"Oakland is a very good team," he added, referring to his Opening Day opponent. "Every team that you face wants to beat the Yankees and wants to beat me. I have come to realize that."

Torre has noticed a difference in his ace left-hander this year compared to a year ago, when he arrived in New York with much fanfare, high expectations and, at times, a chip on his shoulder -- some of the reasons that might have played a role in a slow start. His record was 7-5 at the end of June, but he went 10-3 the rest of the way to lead the Yankees to their eighth consecutive AL East title.

"To me, Randy has been much better, comfort-wise," he said.

Johnson makes his 14th Opening Day start on Monday in Oakland. He has a 7-3 career record in Oakland, which is located about 30 miles west of Livermore, Calif., where he grew up and rooted for the East Bay team.

His wish on Friday was to return to Chase Field in October.

"You can only hope we'll get to the World Series, the Diamondbacks have a great year, and we'll be able to match up again down the road," he said.

Birthday tuneup: Wang, who turned 26 on Friday, allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out two and walking one in four innings. He left game with scored tied at 3.

Proctor absent: Right-handed reliever Scott Proctor, who has earned a spot on the 25-man Opening Day roster, has returned to his Florida home because of a family health issue.

If he doesn't rejoin the team in time for Monday's regular-season opener against the Athletics, the team might place him on bereavement leave and add another pitcher to the 11-man staff.

"He can have whatever [amount] of time he needs," Cashman said. "Our prayers are with him and his family. They are going very difficult time right now."

Up next: The Diamondbacks and Yankees face off again at 3:10 p.m. ET on Saturday at Chase Field in the final tuneup for both teams. Chacon will get the start for against Arizona's Miguel Batista.

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