Pavano holds no hard feelings
Mussina apologizes, urges embattled teammate to start fresh
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees' starting rotation is returning to harmony.
Pitchers Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano cleared the air in a brief conversation on Friday, one day after Mussina was openly critical of Pavano's lengthy injury-related absences from the club.
Both players now consider the matter settled. Manager Joe Torre believes that the brief disagreements were an expected sidebar to a camp that has already proven to be quite newsworthy.
"It's a Yankees spring," Torre said. "I never really concern myself with it. When it gets to the season, when wins become more important, there's things you're going to have to block out.
"The stuff you're doing here [in Tampa], I don't ask everybody to get along with each other. I just ask everybody to play next to each other. To me, that's more important."
The two pitchers spoke for about 10 minutes on Thursday, according to Pavano.
Mussina said that he apologized for having comments relayed to Pavano through the press, and Pavano said he understood his teammates' frustration stemming from the right-hander's continued injury woes.
"He said what he wanted to say, and I said what I wanted to say," Mussina said. "We're both fine with it. We need each other. You can't have division in the team and expect to have anything positive happen."
Pavano said he was satisfied with the exchange.
"It's good that we talked," Pavano said. "He's my teammate, and I have a lot of respect for him. I think we shared both of our views."
Pavano said that he accepted Mussina's stance as one of the starting pitchers who helped to pick up the slack while Pavano was injured. Pavano has not pitched in a Major League game since June 27, 2005, but he appears healthy and headed back to the rotation thanks to a selection of core-building exercises over the winter.
"We're both in agreement that we need to be on each other's sides and support the group," Pavano said. "We need to be heading in the same direction if we expect to win. That's the bottom line."
Torre said that he did not have a problem with the route Mussina took, calling the message "constructive criticism."
"I never discourage anybody from expressing themselves, especially if it's geared toward teamwork," Torre said.
Pavano would have preferred to keep the matter private, though. Mussina later acknowledged that the airing was "not fair" to Pavano.
"I think his comments should have been between me and him, and they definitely got into the media," Pavano said. "He was just expressing frustration."
Mussina said that he told Pavano he was sorry for relaying the comments to the press, stirring up several tabloid back pages in New York. Mussina made his comments following Thursday's workout, leaning a folding chair against a corner of the clubhouse and engaging a group of about 15 reporters.
"It should have been done without what happened [Thursday]," Mussina said. "I apologized and told him that. At some point, we probably would have needed to do it anyhow. It's unfortunate that it happened the way it did."
Torre noted that Mussina's comments may hold validity. Pavano does need to win back the support of the clubhouse, Torre said, and the manager believes that Pavano understood the underlying meaning of the message.
"He also understands he hasn't had very much luck the last couple of years," Torre said. "I don't want to say, 'Keep your fingers crossed,' but [Pavano needs to] just understand that baseball is the priority it needs to be."
It had been suggested that Pavano might entertain the idea of individually apologizing to a group of teammates for his aches and pains over the last 1 1/2 seasons -- reported injuries included those to Pavano's back, buttocks, elbow, shoulder and ribs.
Pavano has thus far refrained, and Mussina rejected that idea Friday, saying that he believes Pavano's sincerity in wanting to help the Yankees is his "No. 1 priority."
"He doesn't have to stand up and [apologize] in front of 45 guys in the clubhouse," Mussina said. "I don't think that's necessary. But by him at least talking to me, it will start the process."
Pavano said that he and Mussina continue to have respect for each other as teammates and members of the pitching rotation. In Friday's discussion, Mussina said that he told Pavano to keep thinking about a clean start for 2007.
"I told him the best thing to do is probably to focus on this year -- 'Focus on what's in front of you, not behind you,'" Mussina said. "We've got to start fresh."
Perhaps the starters are on their way to mending fences. As Pavano left Legends Field on Friday, he stopped short and called over to the corner locker stall.
"Bye, Mr. Mussina," Pavano said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.