Notes: Mussina struggles with control

Notes: Mussina struggles with control

TAMPA, Fla. -- This isn't the first time that Mike Mussina has struggled in the Grapefruit League. That knowledge seems to be of little consolation.

The Yankees right-hander allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits to the Reds in three innings on Tuesday at Legends Field, but he was more upset with his inability to make on-field adjustments above all else.

"It's not so much the results," Mussina said. "It's how they happen. Getting into full counts, first-pitch fastballs right down the middle. All the good hitting counts they got in tonight, that's the frustrating stuff.

"It's not so much that they hit the ball out of the park or hit some balls hard. I can't throw the ball where I want to and I can't throw breaking balls over the plate. If you can't do those two things, you're not going to last very long."

Mussina, 38, surrendered a leadoff home run to Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips on Tuesday, part of a first inning in which he was touched for three hits and an additional unearned run.

The Yankees are counting on Mussina to be prepared for service as their projected third starter for the regular season, but it's been a slow progression. Through three Spring Training starts, Mussina has ventured eight innings, compiling a 5.62 ERA.

Manager Joe Torre said that Mussina has been muscling the ball and hurling himself at batters, attempting to overcompensate for velocity that is not there this early in the year. Mussina estimated that he is topping out at about 85 or 86 mph.

"It's no different than it's been in past years," Torre said. "He just doesn't have his arm strength yet. He's better -- he creeps up there a mile [per hour] or two. But when I see him jumping on the mound, trying to charge at the hitter, it just looks like he's trying to manufacture."

Mussina said his problems are especially maddening right now because he is experiencing a double whammy of firing mediocre offerings to bad locations.

"It's not necessarily one particular thing," Mussina said. "Sometimes it takes awhile to get breaking pitches; I know that. Sometimes it takes a while to get good location. But I've got both. Right now it's a struggle."

Captain's loss: William Mattingly, the father of Yankees bench coach Don Mattingly, passed away Tuesday in Indiana.

The elder Mattingly, who was believed to be in his 90s, had undergone several brain surgeries over the past week. Mattingly has left the team to be with his family.

The Yankees held a moment of silence before Tuesday's game in Mattingly's honor.

Back in action: Andy Phillips returned to game action on Tuesday, coming in to spell first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz as a defensive replacement.

Phillips missed a week of camp while tending to his injured mother, Linda, in Alabama. He went 0-for-1 in the Yankees' loss, one day after going 2-for-9 against Andy Pettitte in a simulated game.

While Phillips' excused absence has put him behind Josh Phelps in the competition to serve as the Yankees' right-handed-batting first baseman, Torre said that Phillips is not so far behind that he could not conceivably catch up.

"He doesn't have a weight problem," Torre said. "I think that kind of shape, he's fine I think it's just the competition-type of shape when the game speeds up a little bit."

Bruney debuts: Right-hander Brian Bruney appeared in his first game of the spring on Tuesday, after battling back pain and then the flu.

Even though his clock officially started with a strikeout of Cincinnati's David Ross, the 25-year-old right-hander may have missed too much time to make the Yankees' Opening Day roster.

"He's behind, and the danger of his being behind is if he tries to make up time," Torre said. "You just can't do three days of work in one day. We've stressed it to him. It's something that he has to understand and live with."

Coming into camp, Bruney was considered a strong candidate to be on the Yankees' 12-man pitching staff, given his success in 19 games for New York last season. Bruney fashioned a 0.87 ERA over 20 2/3 innings after debuting with the Yankees in late August.

"They saw what I could do last year," Bruney said. "They just need to see a couple of outings in a row, and I'll be fine."

The Yankees may prefer to carry a long reliever capable of spot starting for their seventh bullpen slot, which would likely be Jeff Karstens or Darrell Rasner. Torre said that Bruney need not worry if he begins the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as callups are always necessary later in the season.

"It doesn't mean that he's not going to be in the big leagues," Torre said.

Additionally, catcher Wil Nieves (right elbow soreness) reported that his X-rays and CAT scans showed nothing out of the ordinary, and that he could return to game play by the weekend. Nieves said he hit soft-toss on Tuesday and may resume throwing on Wednesday.

"It's still a little bit tight, but I don't feel pain," Nieves said. "That's a good thing."

Second cuts: The Yankees made their second set of reassignments to Minor League camp following Tuesday's game.

Sent across the street were right-handers Steven Jackson, Jeff Kennard and Kevin Whelan, infielders Eric Duncan, Alberto Gonzalez and Juan Miranda, and outfielders Brett Gardner and Jose Tabata.

This and that: Right-handed reliever Jose Veras has been shut down with elbow pain. Veras said he is slated for an MRI exam on Wednesday. "I've pitched with pain before," Veras said. ... Right-hander Humberto Sanchez (right forearm tightness) is not likely to appear in a Grapefruit League game this spring. The pitching prospect will begin to throw at half-length of a mound on Wednesday. ... Frank Torre watched batting practice from the Yankees dugout.

Quotable: "This spring, he's probably hit the ball more consistently hard than anybody in our starting lineup." -- Torre, on Hideki Matsui

Coming up: The Yankees will host the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday for the second time this spring in a 7:15 p.m. ET start that will be shown on the YES Network.

Karstens will make his second start of the spring, remaining on turn after he filled in for Carl Pavano on Friday. Karstens is scheduled to be relieved by Chase Wright, Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Proctor.

Minnesota counters with right-hander Carlos Silva, who is scheduled to be relieved by Kevin Slowey, Matt Guerrier, Julio DePaula and former Yankee Randy Choate.

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