"It's a crapshoot," Torre said. "We feel that the rest is probably going to do more for him than the fact that he would stay on schedule and pitch regularly. I'd rather have him when he feels at his best."
Johnson has been dealing with the back issue for his last three starts, which could explain his struggles on the mound during that period of time. The 43-year-old left-hander has allowed five runs in each of those outings, going 1-1 with a 7.67 ERA.
"I wouldn't say it's gotten worse, but it hasn't gotten better," Johnson said. "I haven't had an opportunity to give it a rest."
Johnson will finish his second season in New York with a 17-11 record and 5.00 ERA in 33 starts. Johnson's last start came on Saturday, as he allowed five runs over six innings against the Devil Rays.
"We saw that some innings he was good and some innings he was struggling," Torre said. "There was no reason for it, other than that he had trouble staying loose. ... You never want anybody to be hurt, but at least now we have a reason why he was good, then seemed to struggle with pitches. In a way, it makes you feel better, because there's something to address. Hopefully this solves the problem."
Johnson and Chien-Ming Wang were the leading candidates to take the ball in Game 1 of the Division Series, but this latest news likely eliminates the Big Unit from the mix.
Torre wouldn't announce his postseason rotation, but he said that Mike Mussina would be moved up from Saturday to Friday against the Blue Jays, lining him up for a Game 2 start. When asked if that was done with the intention of pushing Johnson back to Game 3, Torre smiled, but he wouldn't reveal any decision.
"You never know," Torre said.
Should Johnson go in Game 3, it would give him 12 days of rest between starts, more than twice his normal break.
"I would rather have 10 or 12 days rest and feel good than to go out on my regular start and feel the way I do," he said.
Johnson said that his back problems have been the cause of his inconsistency on the mound "to a certain extent," but he hopes that the extra rest will knock out the tightness before he takes the mound in October.
"That's what I'm banking on," Johnson said. "I don't want that going into the postseason. I'll get treatment, get as healthy as I can get and be ready for my postseason start."