Playing nice: Yankees' Mussina, Pavano make peace

TAMPA, Fla. -- Carl Pavano walked into the clubhouse attendants' room, across the hallway from manager Joe Torre's office at Legends Field. Three minutes later, Mike Mussina entered and shut the door.

Twelve minutes after that, the pair emerged, smiling. Peace and understanding had been achieved.

A day after Pavano said the rift between him and teammates was largely a media creation and Mussina responded with the verbal equivalent of a brushback pitch, the New York Yankees' pitchers said they were ready to move forward.

"I told him where I was coming from, and he told me where he was coming from," Mussina said Friday. "It should have been done without what happened yesterday, and I told him that. I apologized for that. It shouldn't have happened that way. But at some point we probably would have needed to do it anyhow."

Now, if only the frostiness that some say exists between Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez can be melted away.

Pavano hasn't pitched since June 2005 because of an unusual string of shoulder, back, buttocks, elbow and rib injuries, prompting ridicule in New York that even the diplomatic Jeter acknowledged "had pretty much gotten to the point of being comical." Mussina's remarks that Pavano must regain his teammates' confidence generated back-page banner headlines Friday.

"Moose's message to slack Pavano: SHOW SOME GUTS!" said the New York Post.

"BUTTHEAD" the Daily News said under Pavano's picture.

Throw in the back-and-forth over whether Bernie Williams will accept a minor league contract and Thursday's arrest of general partner Steve Swindal -- George Steinbrenner's son-in-law and designated successor -- and the Yankees have dominated New York's sports sections all week.

"It's the Yankee spring," manager Joe Torre said.

``We'll never have a true Camp Quiet,'' said general manager
Brian Cashman.

There are just three lockers between where Mussina and Pavano dress, a gap of perhaps 12 feet, but the gulf between them has been huge.

Pavano said he initiated the meeting with Mussina, an erudite Stanford graduate who sometimes in the setting of a baseball clubhouse can come off as condescending.

"We had a nice conversation," Pavano said. "I told him I understand his frustration. He's been counting on me for two years and I haven't been there for him, and he's had to carry the load that I should be picking up at times. I totally understand that. But we're both in agreement that we need to be on each other's side, we need to support each other and we need to lead this rotation."

While saying his injuries were "all streaks of bad luck," Pavano acknowledged that teammates had become suspicious of his desire to pitch.

"I'm not naive to that at all," he said.

Mussina told Pavano to look ahead and not behind.

"I think he understands where we're coming from, the other guys in the clubhouse," Mussina said. "It helped for him to hear our side of it from someone, and it helps us to hear his side of it from him. He doesn't have to stand up and do it in front of 45 guys in the middle of the clubhouse. I don't think that's necessary. But by him at least talking to me, we'll start the process."

Torre called Mussina's remarks Thursday "constructive criticism" and said of Pavano: "He has to get the clubhouse back."

"You're not always going to hear what you want to hear," Torre said. "I don't think Moose is in the attack mode right now."

Pavano and Mussina agreed that the issue can be put behind if Pavano returns to the Yankees' rotation. New York gave Pavano a $39.95 million, four-year contract before the 2005 season, and Cashman repeatedly has said the team is hoping to get a return on its investment during the next two seasons.

While many players say they don't read sports sections, Jeter said he had followed how the Pavano saga had played out.

"When I say comical, I'm saying some of the back pages were pretty funny. Some of the stories were funny," Jeter said.

There was a bit of an edge in his words. The Yankees' captain was asked whether he has any issues with Pavano.

"I don't know how I could. He hasn't been here," Jeter said. "You can't really miss someone that hasn't been here."

On another team, all this could have been worked out without fans knowing what had taken place. Not on the Yankees, where even the large spring-training roster is outnumbered by media.

"You always like everything to stay in house. It's not realistic," Cashman said.

Now that they appeared to be pals after the meeting, Mussina joked about what had gone on and how he and Pavano reached their accord.

"We were going to have rock, paper, scissors, best three-out-of-five," he said.

As Mussina was talking with reporters, Pavano walked by and left the clubhouse for the day.

"See you, Mr. Mussina," he said.