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Mussina adopts Yankees' approach

Moose stays low-key with World Series

PHOENIX -- Mike Mussina may have signed with the Yankees because he felt they would give him the best chance to reach the World Series, but to hear him talk about pitching the series opener on Saturday, one would think he was preparing for a start in Detroit in mid-June.

Mussina, who waited 11 seasons for his chance to play in the Fall Classic, is taking his Saturday start with the same stoic approach that his teammates have taken for the last five years. After all, it's just a baseball game.

"If you can stay away from all of the flash bulbs and remember that there's a game in there somewhere, then you're going to be all right," said Mussina, who met the media on Friday. "That's just the way I'm trying to go about it; I'm worried about the game and not stuff that's going on around the game."

That approach has worked well for his teammates, many of whom have three or four championship rings on their resume. Mussina, who is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two playoff starts for New York, has adapted his teammates' almost-mechanical mindset when it comes to playoff games. As a result, he has not allowed himself to get caught up in being named the Game 1 starter, or any of the "honor" that comes along with that job.

"In this situation, every game is important," Mussina said. "I'm not looking at it like I'm the first of anything. It's just my turn to pitch. (Joe Torre) asked me to pitch the first game, so I'm going to go pitch. Hopefully, I can pitch well. When the other guys go out there, their games are just as important as this one is, and hopefully the whole staff pitches well."

Mussina isn't the only veteran making his first World Series appearance this week. Mark Grace, who spent 13 seasons with the Cubs before signing with the Diamondbacks, is making his Fall Classic debut. Only he is taking a different approach than Mussina -- he's thrilled to be here, and he wants everyone to know that.

"I really defy anybody to try to wipe this smile off my face," said a grinning Grace. "I've waited a long time for this."

Mussina, when asked to describe his emotions since Monday's ALCS clincher, was considerably less animated than Grace.

"Obviously, it's exciting. It's something we all want to do," Mussina said. "We all went to camp in Florida or Arizona, way back in February, we all wanted to be standing here with a chance to win a title. You know, Gracy waited, what, 15 years to have a chance at it, and this is my 11th year. Sometimes you have to wait a while and sometimes you get a chance to go every year, like Derek Jeter."

When you have been to the World Series as often as these Yankees have been, it's a thrill to see a teammate reach this stage for the first time. Scott Brosius, who is playing in his fourth straight, said that seeing Mussina perform at the level he has this month is fun for everyone in pinstripes.

"All of us appreciate the privilege of playing in the World Series," Brosius said. "So when you see a guy -- especially one that's been around and had a lot of success -- finally get there for the first time, you know the excitement they're feeling."

"Everybody remembers their first World Series," said Paul O'Neill, who is playing in his sixth. "Mussina is not a rookie, so it's not like this is all new to him. He's pitched in playoff games, so he's going to do the same things he did throughout the year, which is pitch well and give us a chance to win."

But that excitement can't get in the way of the job at hand -- shutting down the Diamondbacks and matching Curt Schilling pitch-for-pitch. Jorge Posada, who has caught Mussina all season, doesn't think that the bright lights of the World Series will affect his starter's game one bit.

"He's a calm guy, he's not going to get away from what he tries to do on the mound," Posada said. "He's going to be ready to take the mound tomorrow. He's looking forward to it, and even though he hasn't faced these guys before, I know he's done the research to give himself the chance to have a good game."

Grace, who will play first base and bat seventh against Mussina, knows that he and his teammates face a daunting task when they step to the plate against Mussina, who has been every bit the pitcher that Schilling has been lately.

"He's really good," said Grace when asked what the scouting reports told him about Mussina. "He has three terrific pitches, and he's a warrior. He's a big game pitcher, he has been his whole career. We know our work is cut out for us, we respect the living hell out of the Yankees, but we have 25 guys in here who believe that we can beat them."

Mussina realizes that win or lose, this is an experience that he will never forget. He just doesn't have the time to look at it in those terms now.

"I think once it's all over and we all get to sit back and look at it in a month or so, we're going to probably appreciate it more than now because we are still trying to get something accomplished now," Mussina said. "It's still a job and an important one at that."


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