The Yankees' ragged pitching staff took another body blow Friday when Mike Mussina learned that he might miss the rest of the season with inflammation in his right elbow.
Mussina, who already expected to miss one start, flew to Los Angeles on Friday to meet with Dr. Lewis Yocum for X-rays and a magnetic resonance imaging exam. Mussina was told he would not need surgery, but that was the only good news.
"This is one of those situations you have to deal with," Mussina said. "We'll get back out there as soon as possible, but I'm certainly not going to risk anything long-term to get out there and rush myself and try to do something I shouldn't do."
Yocum told Mussina not to throw again until he was sure he could do so without changing anything. Mussina said he did not know when that would be.
When asked if his season could be over, Mussina said, "It's a possibility, I guess, but not a significant concern."
Aaron Small is taking Mussina's start here Saturday and will remain in the rotation beyond that, manager Joe Torre said.
The Yankees struggled with several pitching injuries last season, including a different kind of elbow injury that cost Mussina five weeks. But the problems have become more acute this season, swallowing up all five members of the Yankees' anticipated starting rotation at some point.
Jaret Wright, who hurt his shoulder in April and missed nearly four months, was struck on the collarbone and neck by a line drive Thursday and may miss his next start. Wright said he was still sore Friday.
"I'll have to go see when I play catch today or tomorrow," Wright said. "It does hurt when you turn your head, and you've got to look that way to throw. That might be the only thing, turning your neck to see. Right now, my shoulder feels the same as it does after a start. It's just basically the neck and the stiffness that is the biggest thing."
Torre has already decided to give Wright a few extra days. Because the Yankees have an off day Monday, they can bump back Wright without forcing another starter to go on short rest.
Randy Johnson, Al Leiter and Small will pitch Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Shawn Chacon will start Friday against the Boston Red Sox, pushing Wright back to next Saturday.
If Wright cannot make that start, Torre said, the Yankees could use Scott Proctor, who started for Triple-A Columbus on Thursday; Jorge DePaula, who was recalled from Columbus on Friday; or Taiwan's Wang Chien-ming (
"We're in pretty good shape," Torre said. "We have bodies. It's just a matter of being able to dial them in and get the people in the right place at the right time."
Mussina had been fighting the elbow condition since June, pitching well in spite of the pain for a while. But he was 2-2 with a 6.68 earned run average over six starts in August, and his command essentially deserted him Monday in Seattle.
Torre decided to shut Mussina down after that game, and Mussina did not object. He said he could tell it was no longer working to pitch through the injury.
"It's always tough not to rush yourself," Mussina said. "If I didn't want to be out there pitching, I could have probably spoken up a long time ago. But I could still go out there and do the job, and I felt it wasn't bothering me to do what I wanted to do. But when it got to the point where it was bothering me, then it was time to take it seriously and realize that you might be seriously hurting yourself."