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Mussina gets work in vs. farm kids

Mussina gets work in vs. farm kids

TAMPA, Fla. -- Mike Mussina spent his Easter Sunday morning on the mound at an empty Legends Field, throwing 83 pitches during a Minor League intrasquad game with the Double-A Trenton Thunder defense behind him.

The scoreboard operator was absent, as was the public-address announcer. The only noises filling the ballpark were the calls of random birds, the passing of vehicle traffic on the adjacent highway and the echoes of balls meeting bats and gloves.

Yankee Stadium, it was not. But for Mussina, tuning up with one just one start left in Spring Training, it was enough.

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"It wasn't bad," Mussina said. "It's 10 o'clock in the morning and there's a full house. But it was OK. I was able to get into it enough to be able to get something out of it and be frustrated by what I couldn't do. It was worth doing."

Mussina threw seven innings of one-run ball under the relaxed circumstances, firing 62 strikes to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lineup. He walked one and struck out four, coming away pleased with his execution and feel on his curveballs and changeups.

When Mussina finished his sixth inning -- still well under the targeted pitch count for the morning -- the Triple-A batters obliged by digging in for another three outs, which Mussina swiftly retired in order.

"If I make a mistake, they may not hurt me as often as big leaguers would," Mussina said. "At the same time, if I get in bad counts and throw the ball down the middle, they're going to hit it as well as anybody else. The only difference between the guys playing at Triple-A and the guys playing in the big leagues is hitting offspeed pitches. All of these guys can hit fastballs."

Mussina's mound opponent, Kei Igawa, struck out eight in four innings of hitless, scoreless baseball, which came in place of an effort against the Blue Jays on Saturday, when a foreboding weather forecast set in.

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Igawa, who threw 55 pitches (35 strikes), remains in the running to make the Yankees' roster either as a left-handed reliever -- though Billy Traber was added to the 40-man roster in a vote of confidence -- or as a long reliever, competing with Jeff Karstens and Darrell Rasner for that role.

Mussina's final start of Spring Training will come on Friday against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium, and after two consecutive starts of pitching against Minor League players, facing Florida's big league lineup on Friday will be a pleasant change.

"It'll be the real thing," Mussina said. "You want to prepare for the season the best way you can. I've taken my turn and gone out there on my day, and I've been feeling pretty good. There's a lot of things you've got to get through in Spring Training.

"Facing Major League hitters every single pitch really isn't the most important thing. It's being able to execute."

One Yankee who was unable to take part in Sunday's action was left-hander Andy Pettitte, who missed his scheduled Minor League start on Saturday due to back spasms. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had expressed hope that Pettitte would at least be able to play catch on Sunday, but he was limited to receiving treatment in the trainers' room.

"I woke up this morning and it was still a little stiff," Pettitte said. "I just didn't feel comfortable enough to go out there and throw today. But I'll be back tomorrow, get my treatment and see where we are then."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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