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Stocked Yanks shrug off injuries

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 5, 2002

Money cannot buy health. It cannot achieve expectations.

But it sure helps.

Take the Yankees, with a team payroll more than $17-million more than the Red Sox, as an example.

Two of their starting pitchers, Andy Pettitte and Sterling Hitchcock, are on the disabled list. Another starter, Mike Mussina, is 0-2 with a 6.05 ERA in his past three starts.

"I hope this is as long as it's going to last," Mussina said. "I want to get back to feeling comfortable and not feeling like I'm 50 yards away. Get back to feeling like it's 60 feet, like it's supposed to be."

Yet the Yankees remain a series sweep from closing the gap between themselves and the Red Sox in the American League East thanks to their glut of starting pitching and a combustible offense.

Ted Lilly and Orlando Hernandez have been pleasant surprises, David Wells, coming off a lost 2001 season with the White Sox, is undefeated and Roger Clemens is 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA in his past three starts.

Lilly, the club's No. 7 starter and a former 23rd-round draft pick, allowed two runs in 142/3 innings as a starter before spotting the Mariners five runs Friday. Hernandez, injured off and on last season, has a 2.30 ERA.

Wells is 4-0 with a 4.15 ERA in six starts.

The left-hander, who has the top winning percentage of any pitcher in Yankees history (.725), earned his first incentive bonus last week by making his sixth start. Should he make 32 starts for the fifth time in his career, Wells' salary would balloon from $2.5-million to $6.853-million.

"I'm aware of it, because that's how we structured it," Wells said. "As long as I'm healthy, it'll be there. But I've made enough money in this game. I'm not a money-hungry guy. If it comes, it comes. If it doesn't, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it."

NOW PLAYING RIGHTFIELD: Forty minutes before the Marlins played the Diamondbacks on April 27 at Pro Player Stadium, Cliff Floyd was moved from leftfield to rightfield, where he hadn't made a start since 1997.

Was it a showcase move so that a team (possibly the Yankees) could get a look at Floyd in right? A free agent when his four-year, $19-million contract expires at the end of this season, Floyd has 11 home runs and 26 RBIs.

"There's going to be a number of moving parts that dictate what we do (with Floyd), including where we are in the standings, how the club is performing," Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said. "Obviously, the (July 31) trade deadline is the trade deadline, and it's difficult to move players after it."

HOW NOT TO DO IT: Tony Muser was the last to know Monday, and even then he didn't initially learn of his firing as Royals manager from club officials.

The fifth manager fired since the start of spring training and the record fourth in April, Muser was informed by reporters while at the Royals team hotel after a win against the Tigers at Comerica Park.

"Allard (Baird, Royals general manager) basically promised me I'd be the first to know," Muser said. "So it's news to me."

The decision was made Sunday, but Baird didn't arrive in Detroit until just before the game and wanted to wait until afterward to officially inform Muser.

The news leaked before Baird had the chance.

After hearing of his dismissal, Muser found Baird waiting in an adjoining room at the hotel. He had been waiting for Muser to return from the ballpark.

BEFORE THE BOOK: Gene Lamont didn't need to read Omar Vizquel's recently released biography to be convinced that Albert Belle used corked bats during the 1994 season.

As manager of the White Sox that season, Lamont accused Belle of using a doctored bat. The bat was stolen from the umpire's room at Comiskey Park shortly after umpire Dave Phillips confiscated it.

"I knew they were corked," Lamont said. "When we went to Cleveland (after that), the fans were on me. I got a call from somebody who wanted me to check Kenny Lofton's bat. I said I wasn't going to do that."

THE POWER OF ICHIRO: Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn't the only sporting venue adding softer walls this month to protect its competitors.

Additional padding along the rightfield and leftfield grandstands at SAFECO Field in Seattle will be added in response to a freak injury to rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki on April 26.

Ichiro sustained a cut on his left knee that required four stitches when he banged into the wall chasing a Ron Coomer foul ball. He missed one game.

Additional padding will be added by Tuesday.

THE LAST WORD: "As loud as it gets some places, Boston is the worst. We'll be in there with the Mariners and you'll hear, "Yankees suck.' Man, that's harsh feelings." -- Mariners reliever Jeff Nelson, who played with the Yankees from 1996-2000.

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