Notes: Britton added to bullpen
Optioning Henn, Yankees proceed without lefty in relief
NEW YORK -- Each time Sean Henn returned to the dugout in Detroit, Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry and manager Joe Torre inquired of his strength level, wondering if he had enough to keep going under thankless mopup relief conditions.
His arm and ego feeling well enough to go on, Henn kept taking the ball, even though he knew his rapidly escalating pitch count would likely put him out of action for the Red Sox series.
"I've sat down in that bullpen for 15 days because of circumstances without throwing," Henn said. "Any time they give me an opportunity to throw, I'm going to say, 'Yes.'"
The 25-year-old left-hander's reward for 2 2/3 innings of nine-run, eight-hit ball? An option to Triple-A, as the Yankees restocked their bullpen for Boston by promoting right-hander Chris Britton from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Britton returned to New York for his fourth stint with the Major League club this season, lending the Yankees a durable arm that had excelled in Minor League duty. Britton was 4-2 with eight saves and a 2.51 ERA in 37 appearances at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
"I was just going to go back down there and keep on doing what I'm doing," Britton said. "I was trying to stay sharp, just in case I got a call back up."
Though optioning Henn leaves the Yankees without a left-handed reliever, Torre said the team would be able to lean upon right-hander Luis Vizcaino in a tight spot to get a left-handed batter out if necessary. Historically, Vizcaino has held lefties to a .230 batting average, though this year they have hit him at a .248 clip.
In the meantime, the Yankees are moderately curious to see what they can garner from Britton, a pitcher with a husky build who limited opponents to a .236 average at Triple-A.
"He seems to get people out," Torre said. "We noticed that here last time; even though he's not overpowering, he must have late movement on the ball. They weren't hitting it on the fat part of the bat."
Britton, who learned of his promotion Monday after Scranton/Wilkes-Barre completed its 11-2 victory over Ottawa, had been the subject of much discussion among fans on Internet message boards and blogs, citing his solid Triple-A numbers as a reason to consider his promotion.
But Britton, who appeared in 52 games last season for the Baltimore Orioles before coming over in the Jaret Wright trade, said he was unaware of the frequent posts, which gained momentum as Yankees relievers slogged through a disappointing 2-5 road trip to Anaheim and Detroit.
"I really don't use the Internet too much, except for sending e-mails back home," Britton said.
Home, to Fort Worth, Texas, is where Henn is believed to be heading. His wife, Tiffany, expects to give birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named Tatum, on Sunday. Unable to pitch for at least two days because of his extensive workload on Monday, Henn said he hoped to be present for the birth before joining the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre club.
Moose pushed out: Before Tuesday's game, Torre and Guidry had a conversation with Mike Mussina to evaluate the struggling right-hander's physical and mental state, revealing to the veteran that his next start will be skipped in favor of highly touted prospect Ian Kennedy, who has impressed at Triple-A recently after beginning this season at Class A.
"He was disappointed," Torre said of Mussina. "That's one of the tough conversations to have to have. He was down about it. But he's a teammate -- he was out there at the end of the game, shaking hands like everybody else."
Mussina was hit hard for the third consecutive start on Monday at Detroit, lasting just three innings and allowing six runs, marking the first time in his career that the 38-year-old has surrendered at least six runs in three consecutive starts.
Most baffling to Torre, the manager said, is that Mussina's pregame warmups in each of the three starts -- one at New York, one at Anaheim and one at Detroit -- were all considered good and as close to normal as possible. Mussina did not speak to reporters before Tuesday's game, but his postgame comments in Detroit left the impression of a pitcher with shaken confidence.
"Right now, I let go of [the ball] and I don't feel anything good is going to happen," Mussina said before boarding the team charter flight. "It's tough to pitch that way. You can't play the game that way, to feel you have no control over anything, and that's how I feel right now."
Torre suggested that because Mussina appeared to have little physically wrong -- he did hint that the strained right hamstring that sidelined him in April is still "sore" -- the recent struggles could have more to do with the veteran's mental standing.
"It could be an emotional thing, trying to come into the game and trying to do too much," Torre said. "It's easy for me to be that voice of reason saying, 'Forget about that last start.' You still have to go out there and make it better."
That's the life: Hideki Matsui has spoken of the designated hitter role as a nice treat, something that he enjoys in moderation. But with both of his knees aching, Matsui is getting more of a taste of DH than he may have anticipated.
Johnny Damon assumed Matsui's spot in left field while Matsui gave DH a whack again on Tuesday, the fourth time in the last six games that Matsui has served that role. Matsui has been more productive in his limited designated hitter duty, batting .338 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in his first 19 games there. Matsui is batting .299 with 18 home runs and 67 RBIs in 99 games where he has played the outfield.
Bombers bits: The Yankees are 29-11 in their last 40 home games. ... Monday's game at Detroit marked the Yankees' largest margin of defeat in club history for a road shutout loss. ... Scranton/Wilkes-Barre established a franchise record for attendance on Monday and will finish its first season in the Yankees system with a total attendance of 580,908.
Coming up: The Yankees continue their mid-week series with the Red Sox on Wednesday, sending right-hander Roger Clemens (5-5, 4.34 ERA) to the mound for the first Boston start of The Rocket's New York reprise.
The Red Sox counter with right-hander Josh Beckett (16-5, 3.21 ERA), with first pitch from Yankee Stadium scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET on the YES Network and ESPN2.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.