Moose looks to break loose

Moose looks to break loose

CHICAGO -- Televisions, cell phones, the Internet? No, not a peep. Mike Mussina was most decidedly not tuned in when Hank Steinbrenner's comments created a ripple effect through the Yankees' off-day on Monday.

About the time the Yankees co-chairman talked to the New York Times about everything from Joba Chamberlain's role to Mussina's velocity, the 39-year-old right-hander was kicking back at his Montoursville, Pa., home, where he keeps a stable of classic tractors and where the biggest news story revolves around local roadway construction.

Evaluating Mussina's sluggish start to the campaign, Steinbrenner told the newspaper that Mussina "just needs to learn how to pitch like Jamie Moyer."

Since Mussina is neither 45 nor left-handed like the Phillies hurler, the inference was that Mussina's diminished fastball can no longer be relied on for consistent results, and that perhaps Mussina should try Moyer's approach of painting the corners with soft stuff to log victories for the Yankees.

"He can say whatever he wants. It's fine," Mussina said. "He's allowed. He runs the team and he can say whatever he wants to say. I'm not going to get into some verbal argument with somebody, because it's useless. I didn't pitch very well, I know that. All I can do is go from here."

Mussina lasted just three innings in a five-run, seven-hit outing against the Red Sox on Wednesday in New York, including two home runs to longtime Yankees killer Manny Ramirez.

Mussina's troubles, he believes, actually began in the April 12 start at Fenway Park, when Mussina campaigned to face Ramirez with first base open instead of walking Ramirez to get to Kevin Youkilis. Ramirez punished Mussina and the Yankees with a two-run double up the gap.

"I thought for three games, it was all right," Mussina said. "Manny hits a double in the gap and since then, it's been a bad three innings and one hitter. And most of it was Manny the whole time anyway.

"Before that, I hung a slider to Vernon Wells and he hit a homer -- he's a pretty good player. I pitched a good game against Tampa [Bay, on April 7], and then Manny has a homer and two doubles. So let's see -- it's Manny and Vernon Wells so far. That's caused me most of the trouble."

Mussina said that he could change his pitch selection to get away from relying on his fastball so much, but he isn't sure that step is necessary at this point. Back in the visiting clubhouse at what is now known as U.S. Cellular Field, Mussina reflected a bit on his Major League debut against the White Sox for the Orioles on Aug. 4, 1991, taking the loss as Frank Thomas homered for the game's only run.

"Eighteen years later, I'm still standing here, so I figured something out," Mussina said.

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Mike Mussina (1-3, 5.75 ERA)
It was a short night for Mussina on Thursday in New York, tagged for five runs in three innings. He allowed two home runs to nemesis Ramirez among seven hits, walking none and striking out one in a 77-pitch start. It was Mussina's shortest start since he lasted just three innings last Aug. 27 at Comerica Park, the final straw before he was removed from New York's rotation for a brief period.

CWS: RHP Javier Vazquez (3-1, 3.20 ERA)
The right-hander is coming off another solid start on April 18, in which Vazquez scattered six hits and allowed a pair of runs, notching his third victory this season. The two runs Vazquez allowed in the sixth inning stopped a streak of 15 shutout innings. The precise pitcher threw 67 of his 104 pitches for strikes and went 75 batters without a walk, before allowing Rays outfielder Nathan Haynes a free pass in the game's seventh inning.

Tidbits
This will be Mussina's third attempt to record his 252nd career win and break a tie with Bob Gibson for sole possession of 42nd place on baseball's all-time wins list. ... Derek Jeter needs one double to tie Joe DiMaggio (389) for fifth place on the Yankees' all-time list. Jeter also has 1,386 runs scored and needs four to tie the Yankee Clipper for fourth place on the franchise's all-time list. ... Johnny Damon has reached base at least twice in nine of his last 13 starts. ... Alex Rodriguez is expected to rejoin the team on Thursday, attending to the birth of his second daughter at home in Miami.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES, ESPN

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Thursday: Yankees (Phil Hughes, 0-3, 8.82) at White Sox (Gavin Floyd, 2-0, 1.40), 8:11 p.m. ET
• Friday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 3-1, 2.45) at Indians (Paul Byrd, 0-2, 4.43), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Ian Kennedy, 0-2, 9.64) at Indians (TBD), 3:55 p.m. ET

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