Sore-Armed Yankees Give Ball to Lieber

Times Staff Writer

The Yankees’ postseason pitching rotation is something like the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” strategy followed by the old Boston Braves, except they don’t even have Warren Spahn or Johnny Sain.

After Game 1 starter Mike Mussina, the Yankees will go to Jon Lieber today pretty much by default, followed by whoever’s shoulder isn’t too sore.

In their three previous playoff series, after Mussina lost the opener, Andy Pettitte led a Yankee rebound in Game 2 -- but he departed as a free agent last winter, leaving a gaping hole.


Lieber, 34, will attempt to fill Pettitte’s old role. That he’s pitching at all is remarkable: he underwent “Tommy John” reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in Aug. 2002 and missed all of the 2003 season. He began this season on the disabled list because of a strained muscle in his right thigh and didn’t make his Yankee debut until May 1. He was 14-8 with a 4.33 earned-run average in 27 starts, giving up 216 hits in 176 2/3 innings.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for, for 11 years now that I’ve played in the big leagues,” he said Tuesday. “This is what it’s all about and it could not happen at a better place than New York City and Yankee Stadium.”

In his case, that’s especially true: he was 11-3 at Yankee Stadium this season. He’s hopeful his success will carry over because his wife and three children traveled to New York from the family’s home in Mobile, Ala.

“If anything, they’re going to keep me a little relaxed before I come to the ballpark,” he said.

Twin starter Brad Radke, 11-8 this season, didn’t mind being supplanted by Game 1 winner Johan Santana as the staff’s top winner.

“Shoot, the way Johan has been pitching this year, it’s been fun to watch,” he said. “I’m glad he’s stepped up and has become the ace. He’s unbelievable.”



As expected, the Yankees left Jason Giambi off their playoff roster and chose to keep 11 pitchers. Among them are Kevin Brown, who has been plagued by injuries this season, and Orlando Hernandez, who has a sore right shoulder. Both remain candidates to start Game 3 or Game 4. Carlos Silva is scheduled to start Game 3 for the Twins.

Torre said Hernandez didn’t throw in the bullpen on Tuesday and “it’s still a fingers-crossed proposition for the end of the week.”


The Yankees’ 2-0 loss in Game 1 extended their postseason shutout streak to 18 innings, including their 2-0 loss to Florida in Game 6 of last year’s World Series.... Torre said Hideki Matsui will replace Bernie Williams in the cleanup spot in the batting order today “basically because of the righty-lefty situation.” Radke is a right-hander and Matsui bats left-handed; Williams is a switch hitter who batted .261 left-handed and .262 overall.