NEW YORK -- Perhaps the New York Yankees really do need another starting pitcher.
With Andy Pettitte's turn in the rotation coming around for the first time since he went on the disabled list with a strained left groin, the Yankees instead handed the ball to Sergio Mitre on Saturday against the Kansas City Royals.
Mitre, 29, hadn't pitched since June 4 because of a strained oblique muscle, and he hadn't started a game since May 16. It showed, as he surrendered seven runs in just 4 1/3 innings of work, and the Yankees fell to the Royals, 7-4.
The sellout crowd of 48,138 fans who endured the sweltering heat at Yankee Stadium left doubly disappointed. They didn't get to witness Alex Rodriguez's 600th career home run -- Rodriguez went 1-for-4 with a single. And they saw their team lose to one of the worst teams in the major leagues.
"Serge struggled with his command," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Mitre. "His breaking balls weren't crisp today, and I thought that hurt him."
Mitre was working under a 90-pitch limit, but only threw 72 pitches before being sent to the showers. Girardi yanked him with one out in the fifth inning, after Jose Guillen plastered a 1-0 sinkerball into the second deck in left field.
"I felt fine," Mitre said, when asked if he was rusty. "[I was] just really inconsistent today, with everything."
On the bright side, the pitcher who relieved Mitre -- 28-year-old right-hander Dustin Moseley -- was very impressive, despite the fact that the Yankees' offense wasn't able to catch up. Moseley finished out the game, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up just a walk to Wilson Betemit in the fifth inning and a single to Scott Podsednik in the sixth. Moseley retired the final 10 batters he faced.
"He was tremendous today," Girardi said of Moseley.
Moseley, a former first-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 2000, was signed to a minor-league contract by the Yankees on Feb. 16. He went 4-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, before being called up by the Yankees on July 2. Before Saturday, he had made three appearances for the big club, allowing five runs on six hits in six innings pitched.
Those numbers aren't particularly impressive, but Yankees catcher Jorge Posada spoke highly of Moseley after the game.
"I saw him in spring training. I thought he had a great arm, a very good idea of what he wanted to do out there," Posada said of Moseley. "I think we have a guy here who's gonna help us."
The question is, can he help the Yankees as a starter? When asked after the game if his arm was stretched out enough to start, Moseley said he thought it was.
"I've been a starter most of my career," Moseley said. "But I just do whatever I'm asked to do."
After Saturday's game, Girardi would not commit to Mitre making what would be his next scheduled start, on Thursday in Cleveland.
"It's too early to talk about that -- I mean, we just walked in off the field," Girardi said.
"I'm not gonna judge Sergio just strictly on today, because Sergio had thrown the ball pretty good for us. But we have to evaluate on a daily basis what we're doing."
So, we don't know who will start for the Yankees five days from now. We do know it won't be Pettitte -- although he did play catch for the second straight day on Saturday, and sounded optimistic afterwards that he won't miss as much time as originally thought.
The Yankees' starter on Thursday might be Mitre again. It might be Moseley. Or, it might be someone who isn't even on the team right now. Rumors continue to swirl that the Yankees are heavily involved in talks concerning Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Danny Haren. And Mitre's performance on Saturday might ratchet up the pressure on Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to make a deal for Haren, or someone else, before next Saturday's 4 p.m. trading deadline.
In the meantime Yankees fans, you've got Sunday to look forward to, and at least three more must-see at-bats by A-Rod.
But looking ahead to next Thursday, you might want to cover your eyes.