Logging a Major League-leading 60 1/3 relief innings entering play on Friday, the Yankees prepared for their first showdown of the season at Fenway Park by adding right-hander Colter Bean to the relief mix.
Bean, 30, nearly made the Yankees' roster with a strong Spring Training in which he fashioned a 1.64 ERA over 11 appearances, striking out 12 and walking two in 11 innings.
It wasn't enough to make the cut, as Bean was sent to the Minor Leagues in the final days of camp, with the Yankees opting to carry left-hander Sean Henn and right-hander Brian Bruney as part of their Opening Day staff.
New York relievers compiled a 2.64 ERA through 14 games, second in the American League only to Boston's 2.52 mark.
"The bullpen has been lights-out, and you can't really argue with the decisions they've made," Bean said.
Bean said that he took the demotion hard, which accounted in part for his 5.14 ERA in five outings at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
"Emotionally and physically, I was drained after Spring Training," Bean said. "I was really trying to make the team, just like everybody else, but that's something you can't do."
Yankees manager Joe Torre cautioned that Bean shouldn't feel too comfortable in his locker at Fenway Park, with a roster move necessary to activate right-hander Jeff Karstens pending for Saturday's game.
In order to make room on the 25-man roster for Bean, the Yankees optioned right-hander Darrell Rasner to Triple-A.
Rasner, 26, started for the Yankees on Thursday against the Indians in New York and would have been unavailable to pitch in this series, but that didn't lessen his surprise as he departed Fenway Park on Friday afternoon.
"It caught me off guard," Rasner said. "I wasn't expecting to come in here today and have that happen, but I'm not the one who makes decisions. I've got to respect what the front office says."
Torre said that Rasner "didn't do anything wrong" in his three starts for New York, in which he went 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA.
Rasner said that the Yankees had told him to make use of his time at Triple-A by learning to trust his breaking ball more and attempting not to be so "fine," but he still felt as though he'd left a good impression with the Yankees for his next callup.
"I hope they can feel they trust me and have some faith in me, and that I can get the job done," Rasner said. "We'll see."
Sunday's probable starter, left-hander Chase Wright, is the other rookie tabbed for New York this weekend.
Into the fire: Karstens said he was trying to take a cool approach to his Saturday start against the Red Sox, which will mark his first effort against the Yankees' most storied rival.
The game will be televised nationally, the crowd will be passionate and the focus and hype will be intense. That's quite a stage for the 24-year-old hurler to make his season debut upon, but as he said, he might as well get it done right away.
"I'm trying to think about it as just another game," Karstens said. "You don't want to get caught up too much in the whole Yankees-Red Sox [rivalry]. That's all you see on ESPN when I watch it, so I try not to worry about it too much."
Karstens said that he could probably top out at about 85 or 90 pitches in his effort on Saturday after spending the last three-plus weeks toiling in Tampa, Fla.
He's back, almost: With Rasner optioned to Triple-A, Chien-Ming Wang is on track to fill that turn in the rotation, with an anticipated start on Tuesday against the Rays marking the 2007 debut of the Yankees' ace right-hander.
Wang has been sidelined since late in Spring Training with a strained right hamstring, but the Yankees have been pleased to watch Wang live up to earlier projections of his late-April return to a Major League mound.
"He's been feeling good for about a week," Torre said.
A 19-game winner and the runner-up to Minnesota's Johan Santana in last year's AL Cy Young Award voting, Wang threw five innings of three-run ball in his second and final rehab start on Thursday, pitching for Class A Tampa in the Florida State League.
Wang told reporters in Tampa following the 74-pitch outing that he feels fine physically and believes that his velocity has regained its usual force, but that he wants to improve his sinker and feels his control can be tweaked.
Pav, Moose making way: Injured right-hander Carl Pavano is scheduled to resume throwing on flat ground Saturday, Torre said.
An MRI taken Thursday in New York on Pavano revealed a mild strained elbow. Pavano was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday in Oakland when he was unable to throw a bullpen session due to discomfort.
"I think we're supposed to do a light [workout]," Pavano said. "I'll air it out and see how I feel."
With the Yankees' projected Opening Day rotation finally beginning to take shape, it may be their Opening Day starter -- Pavano -- who is farthest behind.
Torre said that Mussina, who tossed on Thursday in New York, is expected to throw bullpen sessions on Saturday and Monday, preparing for a Minor League rehab start that could take place by the end of the week.
"He felt great [Thursday]," Torre said.
In the meantime, pending the outcome of Pavano's on-field tossing Saturday, his outlook is still considered cloudy.
"Hopefully, it's not going to be a long time," Torre said. "We're just going to have to be patient."
High road: Johnny Damon was asked on Friday if he'd been paying attention to the Boston adventures of Coco Crisp, who essentially replaced Damon at Fenway Park after the 2005 season.
Damon opted to take the diplomatic route concerning Crisp, who has been scuffling badly and bouncing around the Red Sox lineup.
"Fortunately for our team, he's struggling," Damon said. "But he's a good guy and a good player. He needs to go out there and find a way, and I'm sure he's going to. It's early and it's cold, and it just hasn't been a good start for him."
Crisp made his way into manager Terry Francona's lineup Friday as the No. 8 hitter, batting just .167 with four RBIs.
See you in Tampa: The Yankees will have more roster moves to make on Monday in Florida, as outfielder Hideki Matsui is almost ready to return from a strained left hamstring and is aiming to rejoin the club.
Torre said that Matsui is scheduled to play five innings in a rehab game on Friday and another seven innings Saturday before taking part in a simulated game of some sort on Sunday.
Matsui injured the hamstring while running out a ground ball against the Orioles on April 7.
Coming up: The Yankees and Red Sox will meet for the second game of the three-game series at Fenway Park on Saturday, facing off in a 3:55 p.m. ET start to be televised on FOX.
Right-hander Karstens (2-1, 3.80 ERA in 2006) will join the big club to make his first start of 2007, following a bout with elbow tendinitis late in Spring Training. Right-hander Josh Beckett (3-0, 1.50 ERA) will counter for Boston.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.