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Chien-Ming Wang on the DL


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TAMPA - The Yankees suffered their first big blow of the season yesterday, losing Chien-Ming Wang for at least a month.


Wang was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring, which he injured while running during conditioning drills on Friday at Legends Field. He will open the season on the disabled list, missing at least the first three weeks of April.


"I don't look for him to touch our major league roster until some time in late April," GM Brian Cashman said. "You don't want stuff like this to happen, but unfortunately, it does happen. Now that it's in front of you, you deal with it.


"This isn't the first and it won't be the last. When they happen, how you handle it is the key. We have to make sure we don't make a mistake by rushing it."


After finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting last season and getting the nod in the Yankees' postseason opener, Wang had been projected to be the team's Opening Day starter, though no announcement had been made. Wang, who suffered the injury while running a sprint, said he was not upset about missing out on that honor, but rather that he will start the season on the shelf.


"I felt one pop; a pull," said Wang, who will stay in Tampa after spring training to rehab the injury. "I'm very sad. I hope I get better and get back to New York."


Although Cashman expects Wang to return before the end of April, that is no certainty. The Yankees know how tricky hamstring injuries can be; Robinson Cano missed six weeks last summer with a similar injury, even though the problem was considered so minor at first that the team wasn't sure he would even be placed on the disabled list.


"I want to come back 100%," Wang said.


Wang's injury is the second to a Yankees starter this week, as Andy Pettitte has been battling back spasms for several days. Pettitte threw on flat ground on Friday, and he is expected to start one more time before the regular season begins.


"No one is telling me to worry about Andy right now, so I'm not going to worry about it," Cashman said when asked about Pettitte's availability for the start of the season. "Obviously he's got some things to do first, but I know every day he's feeling better, which is great."


With Wang out, the Yankees will turn to either Jeff Karstens or Darrell Rasner to fill the spot in the rotation. The Bombers only need a fifth starter twice in the first 21 games of the season.


"It's just something that you have to prepare yourself for and not look back," Joe Torre said. "You just have to go out and do the best you can."


Cashman has no plans to pursue help from outside the organization - including free agent Roger Clemens, who has repeatedly insisted that he would not be ready to pitch until the end of May.


Despite the presence of young pitchers such as Phil Hughes and Ross Ohlendorf in the minors, Cashman said that Wang's replacement will come from the pool of pitchers still in big-league camp. Karstens figures to be the favorite, having gone 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four outings this spring


...it has been said that Pavano could be the possible starter opening day. Wonder what kind of ovation he'll get?

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