After 11 years, Moose gets his shot at a ring
Oct. 23, 2001
NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina doesn't care if he gets the call to pitch Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday at Bank One Ballpark. As long as he gets to pitch at some point.
"If it's Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, whatever my day to pitch is, I'll pitch," Mussina said. "If it's Game 1, then I'll prepare myself for Saturday. We'll go over these people, learn what we can learn and get ready to go out and pitch. I'll prepare myself the same way I'd prepare for any other game."
But this isn't just any other game for Mussina, the odds-on favorite to start the series opener. The start will be his first World Series appearance, something every player dreams about. When he signed with New York in the offseason, he said it was because he thought his best chance to win a title was in pinstripes. Now, he's four wins away from realizing that dream.
"In trying to figure out where I wanted to play this year, I had to look at what kind of situation I was going to be in, what staff I would get to work with," Mussina said. "To get to work with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, El Duque, Mike Stanton, Ramiro Mendoza and Mariano Rivera -- to have those guys behind you, whether it's support from the dugout, days you're not even pitching or coming in behind you in the eighth inning to pick you up with two guys on and one out, that's what you're looking for. These guys have been doing it consistently for a long time, and that's why this is the fourth year in a row that this team is going to the World Series."
Manager Joe Torre said that while he has an idea of what his rotation will look like, he plans on taking advantage of the time he has until he and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre announce their plans.
"I have some stuff in my head, but I am going to talk to Mel," said Torre. "He's done such a marvelous job with our pitching staff over the years. No one gets a pitching staff ready to pitch big games like he does.
"I'm just glad we have a few days to enjoy this before we have to settle in and figure out a way to match those guys," Torre said when asked about facing Arizona's Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. "They're two top-notch pitchers that dominate a game. We have to figure out a way to match them. You don't try to beat guys like that, you try to match them."
Mussina isn't going out on a limb when he said he expects the series against the Arizona Diamondbacks to feature low-scoring games. But after competing in a number of one-run games -- most notably his 1-0 duel with Oakland's Barry Zito in Game 3 of the ALDS -- he feels that the pressure of those games gets a little easier to handle with each experience.
"I've been in a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 games in the last couple of years, and I think they always make you just a little bit better," Mussina said. "You don't get as worked up about the fact that the game hangs on every pitch, even though it does."
Every time he turned around this season, Mussina was matched up against the top pitchers in baseball. Whether it was back-to-back starts against Pedro Martinez or facing Greg Maddux or Jamie Moyer, the right-hander was involved in a number of tight games. Now, with the prospect of facing either Johnson or Schilling in Game 1, Mussina has another tremendous task in his near future.
Not that he thinks about those things.
"If I sat around and thought about who I was pitching against, then I'm not worrying about what I'm supposed to be worrying about," said Mussina. "This is a rare case for us where the pitcher hits, so I have to worry about the other eight guys and what they're going to do, how to handle their lineup. I don't have to worry about Curt or Randy."
One thing he will have to worry about will be facing one of Arizona's aces. With the first two games in the National League park, Mussina and the Yankees' pitchers will step into the batter's box for the first time since the middle of July.
"I've hit against Curt. If I pitch against Schilling, I've already seen him. I heard it go by a couple of times, I know that," Mussina joked. "You deal with what you have to deal with. We'll be as tough as we can, they'll be as tough as they can, and we'll see who is left standing when it's all done."
Mussina, who will be pitching with nine days of rest should he go on Saturday, said that he will do his best to get back into his routine.
"It's going to be long rest, because there are no games between now and Saturday," Mussina said with a smirk. "We had a long layoff with the unfortunate events of Sept. 11, so we'll get out there and throw some more bullpen sessions and handle it the way we handled that. We'll stay in shape as best we can and when it's time to go, it's time to go.
"I haven't looked at their lineup too closely yet," added Mussina. "I was trying to worry about Seattle and Oakland's lineup first. We'll enjoy this for a day or two, come back to work and figure out what to do with them."
After 11 seasons in the Majors, Mussina finally has his shot at a title, exactly as he planned it when he put on the pinstripes.
"I'm just enjoying the fact that I got on this ride before it ended," Mussina said. "It's the World Series. It's big, it's exciting, but I'm going to try to take it like every other game. Hopefully I can."
Mike Mussina Fan Page