NEW YORK -- The transformation is beginning.
After last night's 5-3 win over the Red Sox, Yankees manager Joe Torre announced that struggling righthander Mike Mussina will skip his next start so he can work on the side to try to get straightened out. Ian Kennedy, who has gone 12-3 with a 1.91 ERA at three levels this season, will start for New York against Tampa Bay Saturday.
While the news was not good for Mussina, who was shelled for the third straight start in Monday's 16-0 loss in Detroit, the Yankees continue to be thrilled with hard-throwing righthander Joba Chamberlain, who pitched a scoreless eighth against the Sox and has now pitched 10 scoreless innings to begin his major league career.
Last night's performance was particularly impressive for Chamberlain, because it came against the Red Sox in front of 55,037 fans at Yankee Stadium, and it came against the heart of the Boston order.
"David Ortiz looked a lot bigger in that box than he does on TV," said Chamberlain, who challenged Ortiz with a 98-mile-per-hour fastball and got the slugger to pop to left for the first out.
Chamberlain seemed overly excited at first, walking Kevin Youkilis to lead off the inning on a 3-and-2 offering that he bounced in front of the plate.
After Ortiz popped out, pinch hitter Eric Hinske struck out swinging. Chamberlain hit 100 miles per hour on one pitch, and his fastballs were consistently at 98 and 99. Mike Lowell did a smart thing -- he stuck his bat out and managed to single to center to set up first and second with two outs.
Could this be Chamberlain's first crack?
J.D. Drew made sure it wasn't. Drew kept the bat on his shoulder until the count reached 3 and 2, then swung halfway for the second strikeout of the inning.
Chamberlain is setting up for Mariano Rivera now, but next season he might join the starting rotation. There's also the possibility that he remains where he is and works toward becoming Rivera's successor.
"This was his first Red Sox experience and he handled it very well," Torre said. "There was a lot more electricity in the air out there with the Red Sox in town. He faced Big Papi and challenged him. He's certainly not afraid of them."
Chamberlain said he was trying to approach the Sox as he would any opponent.
"I know it's David Ortiz, a clutch guy," he said. "I think to go out and get the first out against him set the tone."
As for Mussina, Torre said he wasn't necessarily banishing the righthander to the bullpen. He wants to see how Kennedy reacts to a big league game. He wants to see how Mussina does working on the side.
Clearly, though, with Chamberlain locked into the eighth-inning role and Kennedy about to get his indoctrination into a pennant race, the Yankees are thinking young.