Taking a look at early-season lineup cards, abandoned and useless now, it might seem like they were from another time, another team, to Yankees manager Joe Torre. Some of the names that filled them Torre has missed recently, and won't see again for some time.
Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, and Jaret Wright. Three-fifths of a starting rotation that was supposed to, combined with a fearsome lineup, get the Yankees back to the World Series. Two free agent signees and a holdover disappointment with a rickety back. Each now on the disabled list, rather than pitching for the Yankees.
And it's not only the team's original starting rotation. It's now the replacements who are going down. Righthander Chien-Ming Wang (6-3, 3.89 ERA), the substitute who leads the rotation in ERA, made his own trip to the DL yesterday, retroactive to July 9, with pain in his pitching shoulder.
''It sort of seems like that this year," said shortstop Derek Jeter, of constantly adding new pitchers to the rotation. ''We've had a lot of injuries. But we can't really cry about it because a lot of teams are going through it. Boston's had a lot of injuries. Baltimore's had a lot of injuries . . . We could be in a whole lot worse shape, which is a positive. But we still need to start doing better."
Enter Tim Redding.
Redding, a righthander who will oppose the Red Sox' David Wells tonight, has played parts of five seasons in the major leagues with the Astros, Padres, and now Yankees (to whom he was traded from San Diego with lefthander Darrell May for Paul Quantrill July 2). Redding is 21-33 for his career with a 5.04 ERA. He's not exactly who the Yankees thought they might be sending out for the second game of a series against the Sox.
''Now we're all under a great deal of pressure," Torre said. ''We certainly need to be able to produce. And pitchers need to play nine innings, too. We need to go out there and minimize as much damage as we can . . . I think it's incumbent upon everybody to make up for it, basically."
It's a start they'd rather have entrusted to Wang. Or Pavano. Asked what he knows about his newest starter, Torre said, ''Nothing."
Wang's agent gave Yankees general manager Brian Cashman a call on Monday. His client was hurting. It was a surprise, according to Cashman, Torre, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. Wang had an MRI on the shoulder late Monday afternoon after throwing an uneventful bullpen session Sunday. His condition, which appears to have accumulated over time, will be reevaluated Monday.
''This doesn't create more urgency to add a pitcher," Cashman said. ''If we have to hold serve and tread water until the reinforcements come back, like Brownie and Pavano, then we'll have to hold serve. If we can do something that can help us, that doesn't hurt, then we'll do it. Again, I'm also looking to protect what we have at the same time."
So the Red Sox will see Redding tonight. And Randy Johnson tomorrow. Sunday's starter remains a mystery, though Torre insisted it will not be Brown. May and Tanyon Sturtze appear to be two candidates for the series finale. Sturtze, however, pitched in relief last night. Brown might return for Monday's game at Texas. Pavano is about two weeks away. Wright will take until August.
They could all join the team by September. They could all be back for the playoffs. But the question is, if they aren't back before then, will the playoffs even be an option?
Not that Cashman's quite there yet. He's likely more worried about his starter for Sunday with one eye, of course, on the disabled list. To Cashman and the Yankees, the Red Sox' pitching problems likely seem quaint. One starter out? How terrible. One closer? Awful.
Try four starters gone. ''The focus needs to get back to where it needs to be," Cashman said. ''And it's not hard to get the focus back where it has to be with Boston right here in front of us. Just like Wang got an opportunity because somebody else went down, maybe Tim Redding or somebody else [will, too]. The season's not going to stop."