NEW YORK -- Kevin Brown was sent for medical tests on his back Thursday, and the New York Yankees waited to find out if they have a hole to fill in their pitching rotation.
Brown came out of Wednesday night's start after two innings, saying he felt as if a "steel rod" was in his back. He did not comment on his condition before Thursday's 10-4 win over Colorado and was still having tests when the game ended.
Yankees manager Joe Torre hoped he wouldn't lose Brown for an extended period. Following the loss of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and David Wells during the offseason, New York added Brown and Javier Vazquez to its rotation, which has its least depth in several years.
"It would, obviously, create a void for us," Torre said. "He was the main guy to take the place of a Pettitte and Clemens, as far as the presence of someone established who has had the winning experience and all that stuff. Obviously, you count on him very, very much. What we do, I don't know yet."
Brown, a 39-year-old right-hander, has gone on the disabled list six times in the previous five years. He said Wednesday night that the discomfort does not feel similar to what he had after back surgery.
While he is 7-1, four of the wins came against lowly Tampa Bay, and his ERA has risen from 2.89 on May 11 to 4.13.
"He's been erratic. He was a lot of more consistent early on, but even those starts early on, he wasn't happy with them," Torre said. "In his mind, he's letting us down. We sort of made light of it early in the year when he was winning those games and he wasn't happy with himself and we made a joke of it. But evidently there was some seriousness to it on his part because, again, he has last year to compare himself to, we don't."
Torre said that if Brown is unavailable, his first option would be to use Tanyon Sturtze, 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in five relief appearances over 13 innings since the Yankees acquired him from Los Angeles on May 15.
Left-hander Alex Graman is 5-2 with a 2.22 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A Columbus - he ran up an 11.57 ERA over 4 2-3 innings in one start and one relief outing with the Yankees.
A trade also is a possibility, although general manager Brian Cashman doesn't appear to be close to any swaps. It appears that Seattle at some point might be willing to deal Freddy Garcia, who is eligible for free agency after the season.
"Brian is always looking outside," Torre said. "Not just because of an injury do you all of a sudden pick up the phone. He's talking to people all time. We check both in and out to see where we can fill the void."
Notes: Wells returns to Yankee Stadium with the San Diego Padres this week and is scheduled to pitch Sunday against Vazquez. "The fans will come out of their seats to welcome him back," Torre said, "and then, hopefully, settle back in their seats and hope that we beat him. He'll get pumped up by the reception he's going to get."
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