When Mike Mussina morphed into an easy-to-hit pitcher at the start of last season, the consensus was that he was bothered by an unusual spring training.
But this year there was no trip to Japan and he made every exhibition start. So why does he resemble the pitcher who struggled last year instead of the Mussina of old?
Mussina doesn't know the answer and it's clearly bothering him. He had another shaky outing Wednesday night, giving up five runs and 10 hits, including two homers, in seven innings as the Yankees fell to the Los Angeles Angels, 5-1, before 37,934 at the Stadium.
"It's just frustrating," Mussina said, staring downward. "You hope for better. And you go out there every day looking for better and when you don't get it, it's frustrating."
In five starts this season, Mussina (1-2) has given up 43 hits and 10 walks in 29 innings and opponents are hitting .352 against him. Through his first five starts last year, he was nearly identical in those categories, allowing 42 hits and 13 walks in 28 1/3 innings.
Asked about his high hits-to-innings ratio, which is especially unusual for him, Mussina said, "It's a lot. It bothers me. But when you're not pitching well and you're not as crisp as you want to be, you give up hits."
Mussina gave up a two-run homer to Steve Finley in a three-run fourth inning and a two-run home run to Garret Anderson in the sixth.
The scoreboard radar gun had him throwing a lot of 86 mph fastballs. Manager Joe Torre said that sometimes those are cutters the scoreboard operators are listing as fastballs, but even Mussina acknowledged that his fastball doesn't have the zip he would like.
"Obviously I was hoping for a little more," he said of his fastball. "Sometimes it takes a little while. But there are other ways to get people out. It's not something that I'm all that worried about. It'll come."
The Yankees got nine hits off left-hander Jarrod Washburn but scored only once, on a home run by Alex Rodriguez, coming on the heels of his three-homer, 10-RBI game.
Washburn got a big assist from left-fielder Garrett Anderson in the first inning. Derek Jeter walked leading off, and Bernie Williams doubled down the left-field line. Anderson picked up the ball and threw to Jose Molina, who blocked the plate and made the tag.