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Mussina shaky in 2007 debut

Mussina shaky in 2007 debut

NEW YORK -- Arguably the most glaring question mark going into the Yankees' season centered on the depth of their starting pitching. Three games into the campaign, those concerns have not been quelled, as a starter has yet to crack the five-inning mark.

After Carl Pavano threw 4 1/3 innings on Opening Day and Andy Pettitte lasted four-plus innings on Thursday, the third contestant to plead the fifth fell shy on Friday.

Mike Mussina said that he never felt comfortable and couldn't find a go-to pitch in four frames against the Orioles, allowing all six of Baltimore's runs in a 6-4 defeat.

"It's got to start somewhere," Mussina said. "Someone's got to get it going. Everybody wants it to be them -- Pav wanted to do it, Andy wanted to do it and I wanted to do it. We're counting on our rotation a lot, and it's going to make or break our season.

"When we don't do it very well in the first handful of games here, it's disappointing. We've got room to improve, certainly."

Working on seven days' rest after a rainout washed out Wednesday's contest, Mussina fell behind early. He surrendered hits to the first three batters he faced; when Nick Markakis laced a first-inning double to right, two Orioles crossed the plate.

"It was a struggle from the very first guy," Mussina said. "It's disappointing. You want to start off better than that. I really didn't give us a chance."

Though the Yankees rallied to tie the game in the second off Baltimore starter Adam Loewen, with Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano clubbing run-scoring hits, Mussina couldn't hold the game there.

In the third inning, Jay Gibbons dunked a two-run single into center field and Corey Patterson ripped an RBI double, opening a three-run lead for the Orioles.

"I think a lot of it today was [Mussina] trying to manufacture, trying to muscle it," manager Joe Torre said. "Moose is more of a feel-type pitcher, and he didn't look comfortable."

Baltimore tacked on a final run against Mussina in the fourth, chasing the 38-year-old right-hander after 84 pitches and eight hits. Mussina walked three, struck out four and hit a batter in his 2007 debut.

"It's just disappointing when it's the first game of the season," Mussina said. "You want to come out better than that. You want to come out and feel like you've got some idea what you're doing out there, or at least look like you have some idea. I didn't feel like I did or look like I did."

As it turned out, the fact that Mussina's shaky outing was the worst news of the evening for the Yankees actually became somewhat of a comforting thought.

Derek Jeter played eight innings after fouling a ball off the second toe of his right foot in the first inning, and the shortstop was in obvious pain. In the eighth inning, a grimacing Jeter told Torre to prepare for a pinch-runner if he reached base.

"I wasn't moving too good, but I wanted to stay in," Jeter said.

After bouncing back to the mound to end the eighth, Jeter was removed for utilityman Miguel Cairo and was sent for tests. The Yankees announced that X-rays came back negative and that Jeter would be day to day, but Jeter does not expect to miss any time because of what is being termed a bruised toe.

"It was sore, but I have nine other ones," he said.

The Yankees also may have found a positive out of their bullpen in left-hander Sean Henn, who relieved Mussina in the fifth inning and turned in three scoreless frames, allowing one hit.

"There isn't too much pressure there," Henn said. "Just come in and put up zeroes, and give your team a chance."

Henn made the roster as a second left-hander behind Mike Myers after outpitching veteran Ron Villone in Spring Training, and Torre suggested that Henn may have found a niche in relief after a mixed Minor League starting career.

"I thought Sean Henn did a great job for us tonight to give the rest of the bullpen a little blow," Torre said. "I think it was good for him. To keep us close like that and just keep the chance for us to get back in it, I think it had to give him a real boost of confidence."

Offensively on Friday, the Yankees scored twice against Loewen, who worked five innings and scattered five hits as he picked up the victory, walking three and striking out two.

Alex Rodriguez opened the second inning with a double to left and scored on Matsui's one-out single to left-center. New York tied the game when Cano doubled into the right-field corner, scoring Matsui, and Cano collected a second RBI with a single off John Parrish in the sixth.

The Yankees could have had more runs after loading the bases with one out in the third, but Jason Giambi broke his bat popping up to second base and Matsui bounced out. New York added a fourth run on Jeter's bases-loaded single off Jamie Walker in the seventh.

"We've had a couple of tough games," Giambi said. "We'll get back out there [on Saturday] and hopefully get on that roll type of winning streak."

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

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