Notes: Jeter remains positive
Despite skid, Yanks captain not ready to push panic button
NEW YORK -- One day after being scratched from the Yankees' lineup with a sore left thigh, Derek Jeter said he had no qualms about trotting onto the wet diamond to welcome the Red Sox to town.
Jeter left Tuesday's game against the Rays after being hit by a first-inning Scott Kazmir pitch, and though Jeter insisted the bruise left by the 91 mph fastball wouldn't cause him to miss any time, manager Joe Torre wiped Jeter from the slate for Thursday's loss.
An idle spectator for the Yankees' 6-0 blanking at the hands of A.J. Burnett and the Blue Jays, Jeter said he was ready to go for the weekend against the Red Sox -- a string that, with the Yankees having lost six straight entering play Friday, was already being viewed by some as a pivotal stretch.
"I don't like to watch," Jeter said. "I don't like to sit out games, especially when we're not playing well. But then again, you've got to be smart. I don't want to go out there and hurt the team. It's a long season and we've lost six games in a row, but I wouldn't push the panic button yet."
With the exception of Thursday's shutout -- the first time New York has been blanked this season -- Jeter said he felt as though the Yankees have remained close in every game.
That may not have eased the sting of walking out of both Fenway Park and Tropicana Field winless, but the mostly veteran Yankees have experienced these stretches before. The most important goal right now is to break the string, and with Boston in town, it would be an ideal time to do so.
"You have to be positive," Jeter said. "I think that's the biggest key. It's a long season and there are going to be stretches when you're playing well and you're playing bad. I don't think we played all that poorly over the last week.
"We lost three games in Boston and a couple in [St. Petersburg], and we could have easily won a few of them. It didn't happen, but it wasn't like we played poorly. As long as the effort is there, the wins will come."
With the Yankees' offense coming off a sputtering effort, Jeter's bat was a welcome presence. The shortstop extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a first-inning single off Daisuke Matsuzaka and has hit in 18 of 19 contests to open the season. Including the final 37 games of 2006, Jeter has now hit safely in 54 of his last 56 regular-season games.
Good news, good Hughes: As Torre took the baseball from 20-year-old Phil Hughes in the fifth inning on Thursday night, the manager patted the rookie on the shoulder and told him, "We'll see you out there again."
Torre didn't necessarily mean to indicate that Hughes was going to receive a follow-up start the next time around the rotation, but less than 24 hours later, the Yankees were ready to commit. Hughes is expected to make his second Major League start on Tuesday against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.
Hughes said that he didn't know if the change in venue would help quell any nerves that irked him in the first inning on Thursday, but said the experiences of his first 91 pitches in The Show could make a difference.
"It's still a hard game to play," Hughes said. "But as far as the nerves I was feeling in the first game, I don't anticipate that being too much of a factor."
Hughes said that after leaving Yankee Stadium, he and his parents went searching for a late-night eatery, a low-key celebration to cap a memorable evening. The only place they found open in the area was an all-night diner in the Bronx, but Hughes said it did the trick.
"It was definitely a night I'll never forget," Hughes said.
He'll be O-Kei: Kei Igawa, who is being skipped this turn through the rotation after allowing seven runs in 4 1/3 innings Tuesday against the Rays, said he will draw upon videotapes of his pitching performances with the Hanshin Tigers to identify flaws.
Igawa, 27, is just 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA in his first four Major League starts, and the Yankees have been irked by the Japanese left-hander's inability to repeat his mechanics.
"My confidence hasn't been shaken," Igawa said through an interpreter. "I need to work on my style of pitching that I had in Japan."
In the meantime, Igawa will remain available for the Yankees as a reliever. He said that pitching coach Ron Guidry, who worked with Igawa in a bullpen session Thursday, told the hurler that he needs to throw strikes ahead in the count like he did sporadically in Spring Training and at times in his Major League appearances.
"We're all trying to find the solution, him included," Torre said. "He certainly isn't lazy about it."
Igawa also said that he has been skipped over in the rotation before due to performance-related issues. In Japan, he explained, the custom is for a pitcher to be bypassed after successive poor outings.
"I'm trying to adjust to Major League batters," Igawa said. "I have to step up to the plate and be on the same level."
Moose on call: Mike Mussina saved some mileage on Friday, bypassing a scheduled rehab start for Double-A Trenton in favor of pitching a simulated game at Yankee Stadium.
Mussina worked with catcher Wil Nieves and threw more than 60 pitches under game conditions, pitching with a batter in the box while sitting down and warming up to simulate the changing of innings.
"He looked perfect," Nieves said. "No pain."
The 38-year-old right-hander, on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, will be back on the field Saturday to work on fielding drills and test himself covering bases. If all goes well, the Yankees expect to have Mussina available to start Thursday at Texas.
"Everything went as planned," Mussina said. "I feel good and I'm looking forward to tomorrow, when I have the chance to do some things I didn't have the chance to do today because of the weather conditions."
Right-hander Carl Pavano, on the disabled list with right forearm tightness, also soft-tossed Friday with Guidry and Reggie Jackson. The Yankees still have no projection for Pavano's return, but are encouraged that he continues to report no further setbacks.
"We're counting on him, sure," Torre said. "But there's no timetable on when that is."
Numbers game: Jeff Karstens nearly made the Yankees' Opening Day roster wearing No. 58 on his back, so when he struggled at Fenway Park last Saturday wearing No. 17, the right-hander didn't completely disregard the connection. Thus, when Karstens walks to the mound Saturday against the Red Sox, he'll have restored his uniform number to its Spring Training status.
"It's what worked for me in the spring," Karstens said. "With [No.] 17, it kind of went away. I'm not trying to be superstitious, but why change it?"
Laundry aside, Karstens said he would need to do a better job getting ahead of the Boston batters and keeping the ball down, particularly avoiding damage from Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Karstens allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings at Fenway.
Rain date announced: The Yankees and Devil Rays will make up their April 4 rainout on July 21 as part of a split-admission doubleheader. Fans holding tickets for the rained-out April 4 contest will be admitted to the 7:05 p.m. twin-bill nightcap, pending the Yankees' rainout policy.
Mass transit encouraged: The Yankees are reminding fans who plan on attending this weekend's series against Boston to consider mass transportation. Because of various construction projects around the stadium, parking spaces are limited.
Coming up: The Yankees and Red Sox face off for the second game of their three-game weekend tilt on Saturday, with Karstens (0-1, 14.54 ERA) making his second start of the campaign for New York.
The Red Sox counter with a familiar foe for the Yankees, right-hander Tim Wakefield (2-2, 2.08 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 3:55 p.m. ET on FOX.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.